Friday, May 22, 2015

SCION OF IKSHVAKU: Can Amish Write a New Story for Ram?

Who is Ram? The young prince who ruled Ayodhya and conquered Lanka? The warrior who defeated Raavan, the ruler of Lanka and saved his wife from danger? The legend of Rama is as old as the Indian civilization itself. Evidences are scarce to prove the earthly existence of this legendary king. However, the Hindus believe that Ram is one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu, the Hindu god of sustenance. Some scholars believe that Ram was a historical figure and not just a mythological character.

Ram also appears as the label figure on some of the right wing political parties. His fame and influence is present still, even in the modern Indian society. A temple dedicated for Lord Ram in Ayodhya is a constantly burning issue in the Indian political scene.

In one of my previous bog posts, I reviewed a book on Ram, also known as Rama, an additional vowel sound, courtesy of the Sanskrit word that is his name. Ramayana: The Game Of Life - Book 2 (Shattered Dreams) was written by Shubha Vilas. In this blog post, I also mentioned what some may call a new wave in Indian popular fiction writing. Mythological fiction has sprung from the landscape of historical fiction inaugurated by Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh and the like.

Image Courtesy: Guardian.com
The forerunner in the marathon of mythological fiction is a young writer who grew up in Odisha. He never wrote a single short story before this idea struck him. This idea was about Lord Siva being an ordinary man, in what seems like the Middle Earth created by Tolkien. He wrote the story down. Sent it to many publishers who rejected him due to the same reasons they rejected almost all major authors of our time, some time in their career. So he went to a self-publishing company. Printed his book out and used his unbeatable marketing skills. In India, quality comes last. If you can market poison as healthcare medicine, you can buy a Ferrari selling poison. This young man from a humble family knew this as fact. He left his career in banking and became a full-time author.

The name of this young author is Amish, full name, Amish Tripathi. He published his first book The Immortals of Meluha thinking that it may sell about 500 copies.

But he was wrong, once in his life.

He did not sell just 500 copies. He sold books in numbers one cannot imagine a book could sell in India. No one envied him. Everyone knew here that it was a dreamy height. Who would envy a dream?

Amish Tripathi’s first book The Immortals of Meluha was about Siva, the god of destruction, according to Hindu mythology. Instead of narrating the story of the god with sentimentality and with overdone reverence, as it happens mostly in India when one talks about gods, Amish presented his lead character, Siva as an ordinary human being. Every ordinary man possesses the inner strength to reach the pinnacle of self-actualization, taught this popular novel.
Image Courtesy: Amish Tripathi

Two other books followed The Immortals of Meluha. The Siva trilogy assimilated a success never seen in the Indian publishing industry. Many are motivated and inspired by this success. The result of this success is the publication of many pulp mythological novels that bear the name of one clan or the other from any of the Indian epics. Ramayana and Mahabharatha follows a tradition that never disappoints story-seekers. These two epics are full of branching and unending stories that even today writers copy their plots from these grand narratives.

Mahatma Gandhi imprinted in the Indian mind an image of Ram that is of both a socially responsible man, and a divine figure. The divine image of Ram stays in the Indian mind to this day. Somewhere Ram, the human prince has lost its appeal. Perhaps, our penchant for divinity has conquered our sense of political correctness.

The kingdom of Ram is also known Ram Rajya. This Rajya is an ideal society. In its idealistic undertones, it may mirror paradise in the Judeo-Christian tradition or the socialist utopia of the communists. However, in India, many massacres occurred in the name of Ram Rajya. Bloodshed and arrogance of dominant communal powers stained the story of Ram, already. This figure, historical or otherwise needs to be heard.

Sita, his wife was abducted by Raavan, the legendary baddy from the southern kingdom, Lanka. Ram eventually forsakes Sita, but only after murdering Raavan. In the later years, the listeners of Ram’s story questions him, the husband, for his blind following of laws and codes of the nation in abandoning Sita.

Now, Amish, the man who wrote about the god of destruction has a new book to announce. He has already finished writing this new book. It will come out towards the second half of this year’s rainy July. Amish has announced that his new book is about Ram.

When Amish announced his new title after the Siva trilogy, and said this book will be about Ram, everyone got excited. He called this book Scion of Ikshvaku. Amazon was too excited that it came up with a pre-order package with a free metallic bookmark with Vedic inscriptions carved in it. I found another factor a tad surprising. This pre-order campaign has landed Scion of Ikshvaku on the number one bestselling position, even before its release.

The blurb quoted in Amazon.in reads as follows:
“Will Ram rise above the taint that others heap on him? Will his love for Sita sustain him through his struggle? Will he defeat the demon Lord Raavan who destroyed his childhood? Will he fulfill the destiny of the Vishnu?”


The real questions are; can Amish weave his ordinary man’s adventure story around Ram? If he can, would this be the beginning of a new narrative for Ram?

This time, Amish hasn’t planned for a trilogy. Scion of Ikshvaku would be first in a series named “Ram Chandra” series.   
              
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