Million-dollar author Amish Tripathi speaks about his work staying true to mythology and spiritual texts.
There was a time we were enamoured with the world of muggles, wizards and the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft. Now, the new million dollar author has had us hooked to the world of Meluhans, Nagas, Brangas, Vasudevs and Vayuputras. Amish Tripathi has lived with the characters for the last few years. “There is a sense of completion. This series has changed my life,” he says, after the release of the third book of the trilogy, The Oath of The Vayuputras. Collectively, the three books have sold more than 1.5 million copies and publishers Westland have offered Amish an advance of one million dollars or Rs. 5 crore for his next. “I can’t do anything about the tag ‘million-dollar author’. But I don’t want to speak about money,” says Amish.
Unlike The Secret of the Nagas, the third book begins without a summary of the first two. Given the sizeable readership the first two enjoyed, Amish was sure the third would be picked up by informed readers. “We considered having a summary but the story has a number of characters and many intricate plot details. A summary would have to be lengthy so we did away with it,” he reasons.
On the surface, The Immortals of Meluha and The Secret of the Nagas were fast-paced tomes led by the chillum-smoking Shiva. Scratch the surface and you got unadulterated nuggets of philosophy. In the third book, Amish goes a step further and discusses the perception of Good and Evil, concepts of Paramatma and Dharma. “Philosophy is in our DNA,” says Amish. It is now common knowledge that Amish’s first book was rejected by 20 publishers, after which he stopped counting. Amish recalls one publisher telling him his book was full of ‘philosophy and gyaan’. “He said he might consider publishing it if I removed all the spiritual text. I refused. For me, the purpose of writing was to discuss philosophy,” he says.
He was also told youngsters would prefer campus love stories to mythology. Does Amish now feel vindicated? “I wasn’t out to prove a point. But I am happy youngsters connect with the book. In a few places, I have mentioned the source — Ishavasya Upanishad — for some of the spiritual text. For the rest, I haven’t. I think the content is more important than the source.”
Ahuras and Daevas
For the former banker and erstwhile atheist, the idea for this trilogy was born nine years ago. “We were watching a television series. All of us are familiar with the Indian reference to gods as ‘devas’ and demons as ‘asuras.’ Through this TV series, we learnt that Zoroastrian Persians call their gods ‘ahuras’ and demons ‘daevas.’ This sparked off a discussion of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in my family,” says Amish. The trilogy discusses the perception of good and evil in different civilisations.
In fact, Amish borrows several aspects from history, for instance the architecture of Meluhan city, the kingdom of Vasudevs and Vayuputras. “According to texts, cities in ancient civilisations were constructed on platforms. The construction of Meluha, the location of the land of Vayuputras all have reference to ancient texts,” he points out.
The finale to the series reads like a well-narrated thriller with elements of love, deceit, war and tragedy. Did Karan Johar picking up his series for a film adaptation play on his mind while writing the third book? “Not really. But when I construct a story in my mind, it does play out like a movie,” he laughs. Amish remains tight-lipped on whether we will see one or three films based on the series.
Amish ends the trilogy with ‘If the Lord Neelkanth allows it, the unadulterated story of that war (The Mahabharat) shall also be told one day’. A pointer to his next series? “I haven’t decided. Whatever I write, it will have its crux in mythology,” he sums up.