After the success of Asura: The tale of the Vanquished and the Ajaya series Anand Neelakantan is now busy with the Baahubali : Before the beginning series.The first book in the series, The Rise of Sivagami was out on March 15th and is doing really well on the charts. I had an opportunity to talk with the author. And here’s an excerpt of the conversation-
How was it writing The Rise of Sivagami in 109 days?
It was maddening. I didn’t think whether it was possible or not, I just sat down and wrote. More so because I was sending my unedited rough chapter drafts to Rajamouli. Soon after each mail he would text me back asking me ‘what next?’. He said, “Not to pressurize you or anything, but I can’t sleep until I know what happens next!” Later when I went to the sets of Bahubali 2 the producer told me that I had cost him 5 days of shooting as Mr.Rajamaouli was up reading my drafts all night and couldn’t shoot the next morning. (laughs) I tell you, that’s the biggest compliment I’ve received for the book, bigger than an award!
With your books like Asura: A tale of the vanquished and the Ajaya: Epic of the Kaurava Clan series you seem to be obsessed with the anti-hero. Why is that so?
To me, they are the heroes. See, if I am to write about, say, Krishna or Rama, they are divine and the divine can do whatever they want. So there is no story there. And many people, a lot more talented than myself, have written about them. What more would I write about them? I want to write about the less spoken about.
How would you characterize your style of story telling?
I believe that fiction is a mirror. It should reflect the society and basic human nature. That’s what I keep in mind when I write. My stories have to be entertaining and at the same time make my readers think.
Coming to The Rise of Sivagami, how much of this story is S.S.Rajamouli?
We had one meeting where he gave me a list of dos and don’ts regarding the characters of Sivagami and Kattappa. He essentially gave me the two characters and asked me to write the story around them like I would write any other story. All the other characters are how I created them from my imagination. The freedom he gave me and the responsibility of staying true to the franchise was daunting.
What are the challenges you faced in writing this novel?
The first challenge was to finish plotting, planning, drafting and revising in 109. Besides this book is a prequel to an already established franchise. The magical grandiose Mr.S.S.Rajamouli has created on the screen along with the musical accompaniment of M.M Keeravani’s magic is indisputably unparalleled in Indian cinema. For me to be able to recreate that magic in words is an intimidating task. But, like I said, I didn’t stop to think. I just started writing. Also, I think the bigger and real challenge would be to keep my readers engaged and interested all through the series. And, since I like challenging myself, the challenge is accepted!
What are you reading at the moment?
I tend to read more non-fiction when I’m writing. I feel it helps in adding more reality and character to my writing. Also, I fear reading fiction while writing fiction may cause my reading to influence my writing. So at the moment, I’m reading Indica: A Deep Natural History of the Indian Subcontinent by Pranay Lal. I’m also reading Anthakaranazhi, in Malayalam. I just finished reading Veerappan: Chasing the Brigand by K.Vijay Kumar.
What are the books that you read recently and liked?
Although I read it about couple of months back, itt has to be the multi-award winning Aarachar, by K.R. Meera, Manushyanu Oru Aamukham by Subhash Chandran and The Ivory Throne by Manu.S.Pillai.
Currently, Anand Neelakantan is busy scheduling time to promote his book The Rise of Sivagami, the first book in the Baahubali: Before the Beginning series, and working on the second book in the series. Further he also has some upcoming screen-writing commitments for Amazon Prime and Discovery Channel based on Indian history.