Banking on mythology

Mar 06, 2013, 23:55 IST | Shakti Shetty

He looks a bit like Chetan Bhagat but that's where the similarities end.

Ashok Banker is an altogether different writer with a leaning towards history — both legendary as well as recorded. Having written series on epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata, the 49-year-old’s upcoming work deals with five unusual love stories from Hindu mythology. What’s more unusual though is Ashok writing on subjects he wasn’t always very familiar with as a kid! He tells CS why so.

Ashok Banker
Who: Ashok Banker
What: On his writings
PIC/ Abhinav Kocharekar 

Irony of it all
I come from a mixed background, not a typical Indian household. My dad was married to my mother for just three months after my birth and I ended up growing up in my grandma’s house. And she was from British Sri Lanka with Goan roots and the extended family were Scot, Dutch and Irish. As a result, I was exposed to pan-European culture and food but was far away from my Hindu identity. So out of curiosity, I started asking around — my friends were as clueless as I was! Ergo, I started reading precociously at a very young age.

An unknown world
Thanks to our countless legacies, we come to understand that a different world apparently existed once upon a time where people were civilized for real. They had a great culture and a heritage too. Of course, they had frailties but they were keen to learn from their mistakes. They made sure the stories don’t fade away by orally passing on the tales to the next generation. Isn’t that a remarkable achievement? The least we can do is ensure the same for the future.

Lost in translation
Most of the Hindu mythology read today is abridged in nature. It’s nearly impossible to find the unabridged versions. So my aim has been to write these stories without oversimplifying them and keeping the Sanskrit nuances intact. If you notice, a majority of the previous efforts in this direction actually backfired because they created a black-and-white image where the Pandavas are the good guys and the Kauravas are the bad guys when it’s not that simple.

Unlikely Bollywood
There are very few Hindi films that deal with Hindu mythology. There are several reasons why this is so. But I like to believe that Bollywood regards its stars as Gods, so they are scared to compete with the real devas (laughs).

Even though I read about 500 books a year, I won’t call myself a huge fan of fantasy writers. On the contrary, Tagore and Henry James are my favourites. I’m also influenced by modern women poets like Erica Jong and Joyce Carol Oates.  

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