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Book readers do not threaten people

Courtesy: The Hindu

- Soma Basu

The past year was extraordinary for Anuja Chandramouli. She achieved what many authors dream of – three books in a row released by different publishers. One of them is on Rani Padmavati

While anti-Padmavat protestors have been wreaking havoc across several Northern States during the past few months, tucked far away in small town Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, a young author of four novels accepted an offer from Juggernaut to weave a work of fiction on the burning queen, Padmavati.

“I was into a deep journey of research as I was already working on my fifth book, Prithviraj Chauhan – The Emperor of Hearts, and I could not resist the offer to write on one of the most fascinating brave and beautiful figures in history,” says Anuja Chandramouli. And this was also in between another book she was doing for Rupa, titled “Kartikeya -- The Destroyer’s Son”.

So 2017 must have been a crazy year for the 33-year-old author, who had hitherto published urban fantasy and mythological thrillers? “It was intoxicating,” she smiles. “I cannot do without writing, so the contractual obligation worked out perfectly for me”. And given her love for history, the legendary characters called out to her and kept her totally focussed and highly-driven, she says.

It was extremely challenging too as it was also her first attempt at writing in this genre but Chandramouli loved the pace and the phase of cocooning herself “in an extremely beautiful private space far removed from all unpleasantness. “I shut myself in a world where only words live.” But words can provoke strong emotions and reactions. Does her book “Padmavati – The Burning Queen” , published by Penguin, worry her in any way given the controversy and violence that has erupted following Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film?

“My narrative is organic, built on historical facts and imagination,” says Chandramouli. She also feels books are so different from the razzmatazz of films, that even if they are banned, readers do not go around roughing up people if they are angered by the text. “The so-called distortions are usually the propaganda of trouble makers and celebs and creative people are soft targets of misguided mob. Instead, people can do well by reading more than falling to rumours.”

“Given the gaps in narratives and discrepancies in both facts and fiction, I have only imagined and told a beautiful story based on history, myth and legend. Read it with an open mind,” adds Chandramouli.

When she started researching for her books, it became a convoluted journey due to paucity of source material and accurate information. Visits to the Chennai Library and books bought on Amazon and material read on Kindle helped her to make an educated guess. “I was totally sucked into the history of different periods and the seige of Ranthambore, Jalore and the impregnable Chittorgarh Fort. When you read more about the kings you see a pattern in their rule, lifestyle and also their fiery deaths,” says Chandramouli.

“Mythology and history are free to interpretation and while depicting them creative people take artistic liberties. I have interpreted the characters the way I thought would help me to spin a good tale.” “Truth is like we see it,” says Chandramouli and she sees Padmavati as the most beautiful queen Chittor ever had. While her grace and goodness enthrals everybody, it inspires both love and hate when Alauddin Khilji, the Turko-Afghan ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, casts his gaze on her. Rani Padmavati embraces her destiny with unmatched courage and Chandramouli ends her book at the Jauhar kund, with several twists in the tale.

While she analyses the complicated character of Khilji as a ruthless administrator capable of kindness as well, it is the sweet relationship of Padmavati with her husband Rawal Ratan Singh that Chandramouli dwells on sensitively merging fantasy with real world, wherein machinations of people like Nagmati (the first wife and chief queen of King Ratan Sen) are relatable. Her in-depth research of the characters and period, robust writing and evocative descriptions, simple presentation of inter-twining plots with a balanced social commentary make the book gripping. The tender penning of an intimate love story replete with traditions and honour, valour and patriotism coupled with an incisive detailing of the life of women in harems and the motives of greed, treachery and envy are all well played in the examination of the 13th Century Rajput queen and her life.

Writing is intensely lonely, says Chandramouli, “and when I can’t, write, I research.”

What is she researching on next? I would love to write a horror book that will not be for the fainthearted, exclaims the young author, who once dreamt of becoming a criminal psychologist. As a writer, I am constantly improving, she adds.

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