re-telling Authors

‘Ramayana 2020’: This modern-day Ramayana is packed with humour

Vikram Nagarajan

Vikram Nagarajan   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Teenager Vikram Nagarajan reimagines the Ramayana for youngsters driven by humour and a global mindset

Imagine the ten-headed Ravana going to the battlefield and declaring, ‘I need hot dog, ‘cause I need energy. It takes effort to sign autographs and take photos with fans at the same time!’ or Vibhishana exclaiming, ‘Sayonara! I am subscribing to Rama’s youtube channel, which by the way is twice PewDiePie’s subscriber count!. His last video was insane! It has 8 million likes and 1 dislike...’

This modern version of Ravana and Vibhishana has been created by teenager Vikram Nagarajan from Hyderabad, in his book Ramayana 2020 (illustrator Ramesh Chepuri). Now residing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the U.S., Vikram sets the epic in 2020, which contributes to the contemporary mood, tone and characters too. “I wanted the tale to appeal to a younger audience and also the Western world,” he says. Ramayana has been written numerous times with different perspectives, this modern retelling of the epic packed with humour for the millennials makes for a fun and easy read. Over an email interview, Vikram talks about the COVID-19 situation in the U.S. and his interest in classics, and his family’s support.

Ramayana and Mahabharata were integral parts of Vikram’s childhood. In fact, his maternal great grandfather Mamidipudi Ramakrishnaiah had published Srimad Valmiki Ramayana Kathamruthamu, a Telugu version of the Ramayana. Vikram says, “Because of this, my family is interested in the epic and it is dear to our hearts.”

Book cover

Book cover  

It was Vikram’s mother Indira who suggested he visualise the epic in a modern world when he planned to write a play based on the epic, for an annual Deepavali party held a few years ago. His friends and neighbours acted in that play, with Vikram enacting Hanuman and his brother Vijay playing Lakshmana.

Vikram’s maternal family hails from Nellore district, and much of his extended family is now spread over Telangana and Andhra Pradesh states. “My granduncle, Mamidipudi Pattabhiram lives in Hyderabad and was the main force behind publishing of this book,” shares Vikram.

With modern twists

Now that 2020 is here and Doordarshan has recently re-telecast Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana and is currently airing Uttar Ramayan, the youngster believes there will be renewed interest in the epic tale. “Ramayana is timeless and intended for all ages and enjoyed in all forms. The epic’s plot and themes make it interesting; Valmiki’s version embeds valuable life lessons into a vivid and adventurous story. I believe that my modern twist retains those aspects. The 2020 aspect of the book is certainly a factor, although I do stretch the truth a little bit in my version, with the technology being rather ‘alien’ and advanced compared to the actual 2020.”

Vikram’s favourite character is Hanuman and he particularly enjoyed writing the Sundara Kanda segment in his book. This, he considers is also the book’s most humorous part. “I loved writing the fight scenes between Hanuman and the hordes of Ravana’s loyal soldiers and also of Hanuman humiliating Ravana. In fact, I enjoyed writing all fighting scenes as I was able to add humour there.”

Supported journey

His family was of a huge help in giving him ideas and in editing. “Struggling to think of ideas was probably the most difficult challenge. I focused a lot on the design of my rough draft and worrying about the font on Google Docs; that took attention away from my writing.”

Vikram dreams of going into entrepreneurship and continue writing. He is currently writing an adaptation of Mahabharata and telling the story through the lens of its numerous characters’ perspectives.

Talking about the COVID-19 situation in US, he says, “Schools are closed for the remainder of the year and we are under social distancing guidelines. I hope we can finally get back to normal once the pandemic subsides.”

Ramayana 2020 (Chamanna Publications) is priced at ₹315 and for copies: + 91 986 608 3528, + 91 974 149 8464, + 91 944 993 1430.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 2:07:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/teenager-vikram-nagarajan-on-his-book-ramayana-2020-and-reimagining-epic-for-youngsters-driven-by-humour-and-a-global-mindset/article31461114.ece

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