Mythology has been quite the rage especially in Indian writing. Many writers choose to retell stories but Kavita Kané has carved her own niche by telling the stories of those characters which are side lined from the main plot.
Her earlier books include Karna’s Wife, Sita’s Sister and Menaka’s Choice, wherein she brings to life the glory, worries and struggles of characters that never got much importance. Kané’s latest book, Lanka’s Princess, fleshes out the persona and life of Ravana’s sister, Surpanakha.
“We say that Draupadi in Mahabharata started the war, well, Surpanakha did the same in Ramayana. I want to show that she was responsible for a lot of events. But was she just a villain? Or was she a victim?” explains Kané, who also believes that Surpanakha is a very misunderstood character. In the book, the author has chronologically highlighted the character’s life from birth to death.
Through the book, Kané delves deep to analyse her character’s traits, “The mythology is just a backdrop for me. It is the relationships that interest me. Surpanakha had three older brothers, all of whom are accomplished. I wanted to understand how the relationship between the siblings was. She was also the child of dynamic parents. Her father was a priest and her mother was a princess.”
The name Surpanakha means a person with long nails. But, the character was born as Meenakshi. Kane thinks that her character is unidimensional and is more interested in grey areas than the black and white. The author also answers whether or not Surpanakha deserved to get her nose cut off, “It was an act of teaching her a lesson. But did she deserve it? There are so many layers to this. She is a complex character who has been demonised, but I have humanised her”
Many children remember their childhood through the mythological stories told to them by their grandparents. Kané has dedicated this book to her grandmother as Surpanakha was her most hated character. “Whenever she spoke, her talk was always sprinkled with mythological characters. She had this habit of comparing people with characters from myths. She used to call me Surpanakha and reprimand me for sporting long nails when I was little!”
Kané believes that research is a continuous process and it is ideating that takes up most of the time, “It took me nine months to write the book but the idea first has to be convincing to me, then only it will work for the readers. I am not retelling the story but I am trying to find something different. It is all relationship based.”
Mythology is a very pulsating genre for Kané because she believes that the issues are dynamic and are discussed in the stories are still relevant, “We live in the mythology. It is present in art, theatre and literature. But it is very different from the way Greek mythology is treated. For us, mythology is living in our art.”
Lanka’s Princess released on December 1 and is now available at bookstores and online platforms.
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