TRENDs The epics are no longer treatises of kings and gods. The rules have changed, the characters have turned more complex, and grey has crept into the new versions of the epics that have suddenly flooded the market. Rama is no longer a paragon of virtue, Ravana is a learned scholar and Sita assumes a voice of her own as does Draupadi. Whether it is Ashok Banker’s Ramayana series, Chitra Divakaruni’s classic Palace of Illusions, Samhita Arni’s speculative The Missing Queen or Anand Neelankantan’s Asura, Young India seems to be captivated by the epics. Or, have the epics always been a part of their literary explorations, ask HARSHINI VAKKALANKA AND PREETI ZACHARIAH
Sharath Komarraju, Author, Winds of Hastinapur
I’ve rewritten the Mahabharata from the point of the women as there is no comprehensive feminine view of the epic so far. I did it because I've always liked the Mahabharata and wanted to write a version of it myself. It is mostly a work of speculative fiction but it is also a retelling. I think that these retellings are popular because people constantly look for different interpretations of the epics and every generation interprets it in a way that is relevant to their generation.It therefore becomes more significant when a new story teller comes forward.
Samhita Arni, Author, Sita's Ramayana and The Missing Queen
There is a long tradition of retelling the Ramayana.The Ramayana is a tradition with many authors and re-tellers - it's open source, and anyone, back in the day, was free to remix and distribute this work.We already have a variety of subversive alternative perspectives in vernacular texts.
such as Kuvempu's Shudra Tapasvi, Sreekantan Nair's Kanchana Sita nd older than that, the ancient oral traditions so much of which are quite radical in their way of looking at the Ramayana. So it's nothing new. Perhaps the difference now is this same trend enters English, and for so many of us in this generation, who don't have access to oral or vernacular traditions, this begins to seem like a new phenomenon. But it isn't. All these new re-tellings are just a continuation of a very long, very ancient, fascinating tradition.
Ashok Banker, Author, The Ramayana Series
I think each author has his or her own reasons for exploring different stories and forms of narrative. But what's happening now is simply an explosion of Hindu jingoism, young authors seeking to make a quick buck off their own culture.
When I retold the Ramayana, I wrote a long essay which prefaces each book in the series clarifying that I have embellished and expanded on the original narrative while retaining the basic structure and spirit of the original epic. But these authors don't seem to care about their own scriptures. They make up what they like and destroy the original text. However, I don't think its working.
Karthika V.K., Publisher and Chief Editor at HarperCollins
It has been happening for a long time now. Earlier it was mainly in the children's segment, Amar Chitra Katha for instance but it has now expanded into adult literature as well.
To a large extent it feeds into the larger fantasy market which is growing rapidly. Into that space we take our familiar stories and render contemporary, edgy and attractive versions of it.The epics have been told and retold for over a thousand years and there have been multiple interpretations of it but it does have a certain agelessness attached to it. Also, it is filled with numerous stories and multiple characters, so there is no end to what can be derived from it.The feedback from readers have been very positive so far and they are hungry for more. I'm sure there is a lot more to come.
Krishna Gowda, Founder, Bookworm
It is mostly youngsters (above 20) who buy mythological novels. The most popular are Asura by Anand Neelakantan, based on the Ramayana and The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, based on the Mahabharata. Another recent bestseller is Karna’s Wife by Kavita Karuni, Amish’s books are also doing well.Though original versions of the epics are not as popular, retellings by Ashok Banker or C.Rajagopalachari are steady sellers, they are like classics. I feel no one has the time to read the original versions of the epics today. These contemporary versions are more sought after and volume of sales for these versions are much more.
Trevor Mark Fernandes, Management Consultant, Reader
Recast epics carry forward the story from a point where people know the plot to beyond that. A myth after all is less about the story and more about the message you are trying to convey. Seen this way, it provides a creative license to recast and retell the plot in a way that is relevant to the times of the reader. And that in my opinion, is where the allure lies; the ingeniously sly yet clever way of telling a known story or bringing to fore characterization of key protagonists in a ways that one would otherwise never have thought of or known.By breathing contemporary meaning into them, the authors interpretation provides a humanistic touch to the epic, making it more realistic, more relatable, and more personal, but most importantly a lot less bound by region and time