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In the myth of it all

HARSHINI VAKKALANKA
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people Love of history and mythology made Rajiv G. Menon a writer

In this day and age of myths, when readers compare notes on the different versions of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana , actor turned screen writer and now author Rajiv G.Menon has chosen to write about a relatively untouched subject in Indian mythology: the origins of the devas led by Indra, the rakshasas and the clash between them.

“I wanted to write a book on Indian mythology. I was wondering where to start because our mythology is so voluminous. But Indra as a character, fascinated me because in spite of being a god, it is his weaknesses that are highlighted. The kind of characters I like are those who are tormented and with doomed destines, like Dante,” says Rajiv, who is set to launch his debut novel Thundergod – The Ascendance of Indra . Though he is a mechanical engineer, Rajiv began acting in 1996, debuting in the bi-lingual film Devaragam . He continued to act through the decade, appearing in films like Aaha (Tamil), The King And The Commisioner (Malayalam) and Bas Yun Hi (Hindi).

“When I started, it was exciting. I worked with some really good directors who introduced me to different facets of filmmaking. But after a while I found it restricting because I reached a stage where I was not getting the kind of films I wanted to do,” he recalls. “I didn’t want to do it after a point. And then I began writing in my free time. ”

Rajiv then began writing screenplays for films such as Woodstock Villa and Soundtrack . In fact, he first conceptualized his novel as a screenplay.

“But somewhere in the process of my research, I discovered that I had a lot more to say than what could fit into a film. It would have been hard to get my idea across if I was to collaborate, so I decided to write a book.”

Thundergod – The Ascendance of Indra is the story of the son of Earth goddess Gaia and the chief of the Deva tribe Daeyus who is guided by the warrior-sage Mitra to his destiny of conquering the kingdoms of the world. It is the first of a trilogy.

“History is almost always one-sided. So I have tried to write from a neutral observer’s point of view by first writing about Indra and the devas and then about the rakshasas in my second book. My third book will be about the clash between two cultures. ” Rajeev does not place his story at a particular time and place in history, neither does he validate the historical accuracy of his book. And he does not question those who believe that the events described in Indian mythology actually took place.

“Is history itself accurate? Most timelines that historians have given us have been proven wrong. History has often been based on assumptions. I leave it to the readers to decide whether they want to authenticate my story or call it a work of fiction.”

According to Rajeev, “Research is difficult because there is very little about the origins of Indra in Indian mythology.” He says that Indian mythology overlaps with parts of Sumerian and Persian mythology. So I had to look for accounts which appear in Sumerian and Persian myths. The character I was writing about had his roots in those regions.”

God theories

“I think myths come out of people and their perceptions of their surroundings and the universe. This is why there are gods like Indra, Thor or Zeus who are three gods from different mythologies with similar powers,” he says, citing the example of Joeshph Cambell’s Hero Of A Thousand Faces. “ The author connects mythologies and shows you the commonality of myths around the world.”

Though Rajiv’s stories and characters are inspired by the myths, he has told the stories the way he hears it in his head. “Somewhere along the way, writing these stories has changed the way I live my life. I used to live in a city, now I try and stay as close to nature as possible. When you are writing about people who lived about 10000 years ago, you need to put yourself in that space.”

Luckily, he observes, India offers plenty of such spaces. “India is a place that has that vibe, spirituality is in the air. And I enjoy the whole process. I think it’s what I’m meant to do, tell stories.”

HARSHINI VAKKALANKA

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