Finding closure: author Trisha Das on her sequel, ‘The Misters Kuru: A Return to Mahabharat’

Trisha Das   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

During her childhood summer holidays, filmmaker and author Trisha Das would spend two months with her maternal grandparents in Patna, Bihar. Every evening, her grandfather would tell her stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata… and before she knew it, the extended family was gifting her books on these epics.

She went on to read Mahabharata translations by KM Ganguly, and later the ones by B Debroy, and developed a deep love for the epic. However, she also felt that it had some problem areas, the primary one being the lack of a voice for women. This was what triggered Das’ debut novel, Ms Draupadi Kuru: After the Pandavas. About Draupadi, Amba, Gandhari and Kunti deciding to leave heaven to live on their own in present-day Delhi, it is now being developed for the screen (details to be announced).

Her second novel, a sequel, The Misters Kuru: A Return to Mahabharat (published by HarperCollins), takes the story to its logical conclusion, answering many questions and tying up many loose ends, lending voice to those who never had one. In this book, some of the Pandavas decide to stay on Earth and Kunti apologises to Draupadi for putting her in a position where she had five husbands.

Finding closure: author Trisha Das on her sequel, ‘The Misters Kuru: A Return to Mahabharat’

A fresh take

Das, who is comedian Vir Das’ sister, was among the generation that studiously watched the epics on television with the family. “There was a reverence and a fascination for what was happening on screen, but at one point I started seeing the issues, and delving into them. As an Indian woman growing up in a practising Hindu household, I did not see myself in the epic. I did not see strength. What I saw was that women who said ‘no’, stood up for themselves, or tried to make a decision were penalised or villainised, either by destiny or karma,” says the 45-year-old author.

The idea for her book came about years ago when Das was in a Mumbai hostel, sharing a room with three others. “We had an 8 pm curfew, and I would tell them stories from the Mahabharata. I still remember how they reacted — they never knew that it had adultery, homosexuality, premarital sex, etc.” When the first book was released in 2016, there was a fair amount of backlash. “Draupadi was a religious figure for many, a goddess. People get offended easily, but if they read my book, they will understand that my writing comes from a place of love and knowledge. I just probably love it differently from how they do,” she says.

How easy was it to write something like this at a time when the epics are considered above board and any alternative interpretation is challenged? “The Mahabharata and Ramayana are open to interpretation, as is Hinduism. The epics have always been retold over the centuries, let’s not do away with that tradition. Jaya, as the Mahabharata was first known, was only 8,800 verses. The Mahabharata now has 1,50,000 verses. We have added to the original; I am merely following the footsteps of millions of storytellers and setting it in a contemporary context,” she explains.

Trisha Das with her first book

Trisha Das with her first book   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Visual transition

Writing is something Das, a documentary filmmaker has always loved. Her National Award-winning film Fiddlers on the Thatch (2003) was about the children of Gandhi Ashram School, Kalimpong, and how learning western classical music became a catalyst for their change. So, how does it feel to have Ms Draupadi Kuru translated into a medium she’s a pro at? “I write visually and believe in ‘show, don’t tell’. Because of my film training, I see incidents as scenes. There’s a lot of action in both books and I knew the book would lend itself to adaptation,” she says, adding, “For this project, I’ve decided to just be the writer, and I am not going to be involved in its making.”

Telling me how writing the sequel has personally helped her seek closure for questions she had in the Mahabharata, she adds, “Especially when it comes to Yudishtra’s journey and dharma, and why he did what he did. It organically played out while writing. I did not decide to write this in a particular way. I did a character analysis into their personality, and thought this is how it might have ended.”

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 3:30:24 PM |

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