Retelling of mythologies isn't new to Indian audiences, however when an author chooses to create a fantasy world drawing from classical Indian mythology, one does take notice, especially when author Sangeeta Bahadur's offering is part of a trilogy.
Writing on diplomatic issues could have been the easy way out for Bahadur, a senior Indian Foreign Service officer, currently posted in London, whose novel Vikraal – the second in the 'Kaal' trilogy - is out in market. But she chose to tread a difficult path and create a new world for the audiences, who have so far been served a tried-and-tested recipe of retelling.
"For many decades, this kind of writing has been discouraged in India for the lack of readership. However, post-liberalisation, things have improved in every sector and so in publishing, where every idea is now welcomed," Bahadur told IANS, in an interview. "At the same time, we have seen retelling many mythological tales and that is an easy way out to present something that already exists in a new format. I didn't want to take the easy path," she added.
From sketching a map of the imaginative continent of Hastipeeth to creating a world of different empires, kingdoms and several characters that belong to them, Bahadur's book shows it all. Then, there is a 'Land of the Swallows', different tribes, several enigmas and the protagonist, Arihant, whose journey the author traces in the trilogy.
"I have basically mapped three stages of his life journey: physical, metal and existential. In this story, the protagonist has grown from a teenager to a handsome young man and he then falls in love. There are also several twists and turns that will take the story to its final part," Bahadur elaborated.
For someone who has been writing since 13, it was only much later in life she got hooked to sci-fi and fantasy and read international authors of the genre like JRR Tolkien of The Lord of the Rings, Terry Pratchett and others.
"I was clear I didn't want to rehash," said Bahadur, adding, “I was wondering how you can make an Indian superhero by doing something that is believable." This thought process led Bahadur to dig deep into the mystic threads of Indian epics like the Upanishads, the Puranas and the Tantras to anoint Arihant with supernatural powers. "I had to evolve Arhinat in a logical way so I had to create him step-by-step to make sure he looks believable," Bahadur said