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Page to Screen | Author Speak

By January 16, 2019No Comments

Source : India Today

The Rise of Sivagami, will soon be a Netflix series.


Anand Neelakantan straddles print, movies and television. He’s developing a three-book prequel to Baahubali, for instance, and the first of the lot, The Rise of Sivagami, will soon be a Netflix series. He spoke with India Today about translating the page to the screen.

Q: Several of your books have been adapted for movies and television series. How do you feel about seeing your words come to life on screen?

A. In the present era, what could be more satisfying than writing stories that get adapted to films and web series? I feel elated, it is a dream come true.

Q: Do you think creative writing, on the whole, is moving towards the screen these days-be it movies, television or the web?

A. Stories can be told through various mediums. In an earlier era, poetry, plays and novels were the primary medium of telling stories. Now screen, whether it is IMAX size or the mobile screen size, has become the primary storytelling medium. If you want to be an impactful storyteller, you cannot stay away from the screen.

Q: We hear the screen rights for Vanara: the Legend of Baali, Sugreeva and Tara were bought within two days of its release.

A. Sidharth Jain of The Story Ink Agency happened to read my book and loved it. When he showed it to major studios, many were enthused by the story. DAR Media and KR Films came forward with an offer I couldn’t refuse. Thus, one of the biggest book-to-screen adaptation deals was signed for my fifth book.

Q: In one of your interviews, you’ve called Vanara your ‘best work till date’. Would you like to elaborate on that?

A. Vanara was written with the big screen in mind. The Rise of Sivagami-the first book of my Baahubali series-was written with web series in mind. My first three books-Asura, Roll of the Dice and Rise of Kali were pure novels and may have higher literary value. Vanara, on the other hand, is highly visual. Many who have read the book say every scene unfolds like a film. In this era dominated by the screen, this is a big compliment.

Q: Asura was told from Ravana’s POV; the Ajaya series focused on the Kauravas. What made you consider writing these books from the perspective of the vanquished/’villains’?

A: I believe the best way to understand a story is to approach from all sides. Hence I wrote Asura from Ravana’s POV, Siya Ke Ram, the series in Star TV, I wrote from Sita’s point of view and Mahabali Hanuman, the Sony TV series, from Hanuman’s point of view. Vanara is from the POV of Baali, Tara and Sugreeva. There are more stories to come from characters of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Only when I move away from the conventional path do I discover great stories that are waiting to be told.

Q: Who are your favourite writers? How do you research your subject? Do you also read a lot of mythology from other, foreign cultures?

A: My favourite writers till now remain Valmiki and Veda Vyasa. I read a lot of Indian writers who write in Indian languages. Basheer, M T Vasudevan Nair, S L Byrappa etc remain my other favourites. I do not read much of foreign mythology, though I read literary works and thrillers that are written from foreign authors.

Q: Another very interesting project seems to be the Baahubali trilogy you are working on, that is supposed to serve as a prequel to SS Rajamouli’s blockbuster film franchise. Why a prequel?

A: Why not a prequel? Baahubali is a great story. Even with two films, not even ten percent of the story has not been told. A series of Novels helps us to create a fictional history of Mahishmathi. It is written like a historical fiction with more than forty characters who do not appear in the movie. The canvas and the time period is bigger than the slice of story that appeared in the film. Who knows, may be after many hundred years, people may think a kingdom called Mahishmathi existed and Baahubali was the king there. Perhaps, one day, Baahubali may become a God and there would be public lynching of Bhallala Deva effigy, signifying the victory of good versus evil.

Q: Do you think Hindu mythology is more relevant/necessary in today’s world? What do you think of some political forces trying to twist/use it for their own agenda?

A: The greatness of Indian Puranas is in their diversity. There are many hundred Ramayanas and thousands of versions of Mahabharata across the world. The kind of variations and often contradictions from one text to another is mind-boggling. It is essential to keep this diversity alive as India itself is a vastly diverse country. Political forces had always used religion and stories to manipulate people since time immemorial and there is nothing new in what is happening now. India has always resisted any move for quenching subaltern voices and has reacted with more vigor with varied versions. The kind of victory in purging differing versions of the scriptures and holy stories that Catholic Church achieved with the help of violence and force is not going to happen in India for the simple reason that there is no central church. In diversity of thought, culture, language and philosophy lies India’s beauty and strength.

Q: Recently, UP has been on a city renaming binge (Allahabad to Prayagraj, Faizabad to Ayodhya, etc). Your views?

A: Nothing wrong in renaming any cities. Allahabad was not the original name of Prayag. It was renamed to Allahabad by the victor of the war. When the victors change, they will change the names, stories, histories and even landscapes to suit their need. If Madras can rename itself to the original Chennai and Bombay to Mumbai, why can’t the people of Ayodhya call their town Ayodhya.

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