The Business of Myth

Newer versions and new interpretations of the Indian mythology have become the new selling propositions for the budding Indian English authors

Newer versions and new interpretations of the Indian mythology have become the new selling propositions for the budding Indian English authors

Writers today are hardly any different from entrepreneurs who dwell on their idea, work on it to bring it to life after intensive work and then take their product into the market, often managing the marketing propositions themselves. They are well aware of their product and know how it is different from other similar offerings in the market. Therefore, they know well, how to communicate its central message correctly.

While the very first time literature was successfully targeted to be consumed by masses in India was through Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone, the second wave was captured by Amish Tripathi’s Shiva Trilogy. It is to be remembered that both these waves generated huge market for consumption of literature in India. The first wave gave rise to popular love-romance light hearted fiction that saw many first time authors gaining popularity and acceptability like Ravindra Singh, Sachin Garg, Durjoy Dutta, etc. But the second wave has been more remarkable because this gave rise to some sort of a cult niche that was backed by strong understanding, knowledge and the interplay of philosophical dilemmas that usually accompany the narrative of an epic. The success of Amish’s novel gave the fillip to the genre of mythological interplay in the novels by new age authors, and somehow, this has been more impactful and sustainable model for the writers that have come around later.

It can be well argued that, almost everyone could have a love story, and so, the trend of many writers jumping onto composing a love-romance novel was making the genre unattractive for readers who would like a standard and quality product to spend their time and money on. While this was true for the first wave, the second wave is much differentiated. Adventure and fantasy could still be weaved, but to digress, distort and to again draw from an established plot to unveil newer perspectives in a business of the learned. Not surprisingly, many writers who have released their novels in this genre have done well, both financially as well as qualitatively. Some examples include the highly gripping retelling of the Mahabharata and Ramayana tales from an alternative perspective of Kauravas and Asuras, respectively, by the author Anand Neelakantan in the Ajay Trilogy, Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik, The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Arjuna by Anuja Chandramauli and The Aryavarta Chronicles by Krishna Udayasankar.

Most of these writers have been into formal corporate jobs and having found their true calling, took a jump into a venture where the market has been graduating, but the tide was not always in favour of them. The latest in the series of exceptional new writers is an ex- merchant navy officer who was also employed by P&G and now works with Philips India- Rahul Rajan whose mythological fiction- ‘Rudravan’ is being hailed as a good read lately and has garnered an impressive 4.7 stars on

Some of the characteristics of the novel indeed mark it as of a distinguished quality construct. A narrative from the perspective of Ravana, the greatest and the most infamous villain in Indian mythology is bound to raise curiosity, just because of the fact that his own version of the tale hasn’t been spoken in ancient Indian classical literature. Also, the narrative is fast paced, logical, at times even scientifically explained and sans the frills of a plethora of inter-related stories that usually accompany the main narrative in any epic- styled mythological fiction. In fact the subject matter in itself challenges the set motions and traditional beliefs that is a very post-modern approach to literature. Highlighting the greatest enemy as anything else becomes the quest of a subaltern and so the narratives even becomes symbolic of the unheard voices in the fabric of our society. The novel in a symbolic manner challenges the accepted notions of truth which, seen from a broader view, resonates across the economic set up of our world today. We get reminded of Tughlaq by Girish Karnad.

The book seems to have risen from the lack of explanations provided in the narrative of Ramayana for example, why would Ravana keep Sita chaste when he has abducted her against her wishes? “Rāvan’s origin, as the descendant of Lord Brahma, his devotion to Shiva and his conquest of Swarga speak of a great king, stronger and wiser than even the Devas. How then does he succumb to lust, cowardice and finally, foolhardiness? Why did Vishnu stood against him, when he was blessed by both Shiva and Brahma? How was Rāvan, blessed with invincibility, defeated so conveniently, by a God in human garb? Could Rāvan not have thought of that, and prepared against it?” Or rather, the whole plot was designed to manifest Rama as the virtuous wherein the better man was actually Ravana. Did the epic merely serve as tool for a specific propaganda just as it is with all power-political establishments trying to evangelise their own versions of truth/belief? As a mythological fiction the fact that the book tries to decimate a myth, becomes a matter of a dark and yet fascinatingly comic irony.