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)

I too was raped by mill assailants: Mumbai teen

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • |
  • Updated: Sep 04, 2013 03:17 IST

The photojournalist gang rape accused could be involved in another gang rape at the same spot in Mumbai.

A 19-year-old filed a police complaint on Monday saying she was gangraped by five men at Shakti Mills compound a month ago.

Of the five, three of the accused — Mohammad Salim Ansari, 27, Mohammad Kasim Shaikh alias Bangali, 20, and Vijay Jadhav, 20 — are in police custody for the gang rape of the 22-year-old photojournalist on August 22.

The police have identified the other two accused as Ashfaq and a minor (17 years old), who has been arrested.

The woman had gone away from the city after the incident on July 31 and returned only on Monday, when she lodged a complaint at Bhandup police station in eastern suburbs of Mumbai.

As per her statement, on July 31, she and her boyfriend had gone to a spot near Mahalaxmi station and had later taken a shortcut back to the station as they were getting late. As they walked down the mill lane to the tracks, the accused stopped them. “They tied up her friend with her dupatta and raped the girl,” said deputy commissioner of police Vinayak Deshmukh.

This is the second case of gang rape that has been officially registered against Salim, Bangaliand Vijay, who, according to the police, have raped at least four women on the Shakti Mill premises.

The woman contended that she recognised the assailants from the sketches released by police after the gang rape of a 22-year-old photo-journalist and the assault on her male colleague on August 22.

A senior police official told the media on Tuesday that the five accused of gangraping the photo-journalist have confessed to committing similar crimes.

Their victims included a woman rag picker and a commercial sex-worker.

The official said the new complaint would also be thoroughly investigated.


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