We meet at the Indian Oil Corporation’s headquarters in Bandra. The ID card slung around his neck and the crisp formals tell you that 41-year-old Anand Neelakantan is an executive at a corporate giant. However, what sets this unassuming man apart is his highly successful career as an author of mythological fiction. Neelakantan’s bestselling debut novel, Asura: Tale of the Vanquished (2012), turned Ramayana on its head. Was the 10-headed demon, Ravana, really evil as we’re led to believe? Was Lord Rama divine? In his book, Neelakantan questions our age-old notions and depicts Ravana as an ambitious person oppressed by the system. Then, in Roll of the Dice (2013), part one of the Ajaya series, he re-tells the events leading up to the Mahabharata war, from the Kauravas’ point of view. Now, in the second and final part, Rise of Kali, he takes the story ahead from Duryodhana's perspective.

    You’ve said you were fascinated by mythology while growing up. How did epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana shape your childhood?
    Bards would often visit my village, Thripunithura (near Cochin, Kerala). We looked forward to their oral retellings of all the Puranas. It was a major source of entertainment.

    You’re drawn to anti-heroes. Why do you choose to write their side of the story?
    They appear more human. It was easy to identify with Ravana because, like most people, he has a lot of flaws. Rama is an ideal. One is a god, the other is a man. This is the case with Yudhisthira and Duryodhana too. 

    In Rise of Kali, you voiced some of your own misgivings about the Bhagvad Gita.
    I’ve expressed some of my doubts through Arjuna’s and Balrama’s. For instance, Balrama asks Krishna, “If Duryodhan is evil, why not kill only him? Why create a war?” Krishna doesn’t have a convincing answer to that.

    How do you go about researching for your novels?
    I speak to people from back home who keep the oral tradition alive. They have different takes on some of the smaller aspects in the same story. Then, I refer to a Puranic encyclopedia written a hundred years ago in Malayalam. It has a whole list of characters, in alphabetical order, and their stories. It’s quite phenomenal.

    How do you re-imagine a scene that’s been written about endlessly and read with reverence?
    When I sit down to write, I get into the skin of the characters. It’s like an actor playing his part. That kind of schizophrenia is required for a writer. For instance, I might have prayed half an hour ago, but Krishna is not a god when I start writing.

    What’s next?
    I am working on a young adult book series about the age old story of Kacha-Devayani (story of how Kacha, from the Deva clan and Devayani, daughter of Asura guru Shukracharya, fall in love). My daughter, who is nearly 13, is a big fan of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. She finds Indian mythology boring, which is very offensive to me (laughs). So, I'm writing this fantasy love story for her.

    Rise of Kali by Anand Neelakantan is out now.
    Price: Rs 399 (Leadstart Publishing)
     


Madhuri Dixit's acting made me feel I was on screen: Sampat Pal

  • PTI, New Delhi
  • |
  • Updated: Mar 10, 2014 14:53 IST
  • Madhuri Dixit

    Madhuri Dixit transformed from a dancing diva to an action queen, only after undergoing a rigorous training. Check out the moments from her practice sessions.

  • Madhuri

    Catch the dancing diva in action.

  • Kanisha Sharma

    Kanisha Sharma is the man behind training Madhuri for those high-octane action sequences in Gulaab Gang.

  • Madhuri

    Kanishka Sharma is all praises forMadhuri Dixit who made the tough stunts look effortless on screen.

  • Gulaab Gang

    Madhuri Dixit in a still from the film Gulaab Gang.

Vigilante activist Sampat Pal maybe angry with the producers of Gulaab Gang but in Madhuri Dixit's character she finds a reflection of her own life so stark that it makes her feel 'it was me on screen'.

"The battle about the movie has not ended and I will keep it going till my demands are met, but Madhuri has definitely impressed me with her acting skills in the movie," Pal, founder of the vigilante group Gulabi Gang, said.



"Madhuri's acting did remind me of my journey and of the times I have been through. I felt it was me on the screen," she said, adding she has nothing against the actors and her fight is against the producers including Anubhav Sinha.

Pal had moved the court seeking a stay on the film's release claiming that her permission was not sought prior to making of the film and had alleged that it contains defamatory content which would adversely affect her reputation.

WATCH: GULAAB GANG REVIEW

The Delhi high court on Thursday allowed the film to be released across the country but with a disclaimer that it has nothing to do with the life of Pal and her organisation.



Pal watched the movie on Friday along with her lawyer and said all the incidents portrayed were similar to her story, which was written by Amana Fontella Khan in her book Pink Sari Revolution.
"The filmmakers are claiming that its not my story, but after watching the movie, I am even more sure. It has all what my life has been all about," she claimed.

READ: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SAMPAT PAL

"Giving a disclaimer won't change the reality. I am right here, the movie has the same story which has been written by Amana Fontella Khan in 'Pink Sari Revolution'. How can Madhuri Dixit's character 'Rajjo' be a fictitious one," she asked.

"How I protested against violence against women, how I approached the CM when electricity wasn't available in remote areas of Bundelkhand, how I had to go to jail, how I got a Congress ticket from the Manikpur constituency in Chitrakoot district in the 2012 UP Assembly polls, it's all there in the movie," she said.

Pal, a child bride and former government health worker, formed the gang of pink sari-clad women in 2006 which works for rights of women in impoverished Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

 

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