In conversation with Baahubali's cast and crew

Before the beginning

The tale depends on the teller. “It is the narrator who creates villains and heroes, and draws analogies between good and evil,” says author Anand Neelakantan, whose has recently-released The Rise of Shivagami, the first of a planned trilogy.

“In 2016, after reading one of my books, director SS Rajamouli called me to write a prequel to Baahubali. I thought it was a prank and was surprised when a mail arrived from his office. I met him in Hyderabad and started work on the books immediately.”

The Rise of Sivagami is set in Mahishmathi. There are more than 40 characters and the novel traces the life of Sivagami, the queen and the slave Kattappa. “We wanted a series that lays the foundation for the events in Baahubali. I have introduced many new characters. The book is populated with complex characters, driven by power and ambition. There is no clear-cut battle between good and evil in the series. I draw my inspiration from the Mahabharata, which is at its very essence is a tale about people and their ambition. The trilogy ends at the beginning of Baahubali.”

Before the beginning
 

Talking about Mahishmathi, Anand says, “There is friction, power struggles, feudal structures are still in place with the commoners being exploited, and society is fractured. Even though it is a dystopian society, people outside perceive Mahishmathi as a great country. There is an element of revenge, slaves yearning to overthrow their masters and questioning the unjust system and much more in the books. Each class of society exploits the other.” The 43-year-old author wrote the book in 100 days. “I do not think much when I am writing. I write the first draft, then return to fix the loose ends. Unlike my earlier books, which were adaptations of Indian myths, retold from a new perspective, this is completely new. It was easier to mould the story based on my own imagination. I had a lot of fun writing it.”

He adds, “Like the movies, I have tried to keep the action in the book fast paced. I hope readers enjoy the climax as well.”Rajamouli plans a mini-series based on the books. It is a thought that excites Anand. “When a culture is at its peak, its mythology and cultural references are transmitted across the world. It happened in ancient Greece and India. Presently, symbols of Western civilisation hold sway in contemporary society. I hope that the books add to making Baahubali a household name across the world.”


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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 9:21:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/before-the-beginning/article17810132.ece

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