08
Mar

“Women’s perseverance and strength of character see them through. …aptly demonstrated by Amrapali’s story.”

Author of The Legend of Amrapali, Anurag Anand talks to IBR about his third book, his eagerness to throw light on the illustrious life of the danseuse and women as role models today. Read on!

IBR (Shana Susan): After two books, what made you choose a female lead for your story?

Anurag Anand: A story can hold enough intrigue and complexities regardless of the protagonist’s gender. There are enough examples in the texts of history and even the current day where women have led lives no less adventurous and exciting than their male counterparts. Hence, the lead being a female was merely a derivative of the exhilarating and inspiring nature of the story and not some frivolous fancy to bring about gender equality in my writings.

IBR: Why Amrapali, and not any other famous woman from history?

AA: In the current times there are many who have heard of the legendary courtesan Amrapali, but not many know of her. There is little recorded history to corroborate the grandiose anecdotes and tales from her life that have been passed down for over 2,500 years now. Her unmatched beauty, her magical dance moves and her benevolence, all remain unsubstantiated and the only recorded facts about Amrapali’s life can be found in some Buddhist scriptures, since she is said to have renounced all her worldly riches to become the first Buddhist nun. The resultant gaps in her story presented an exciting opportunity for it to be mingled with fiction and retold in a manner that the readers of today can relate to, which is what I have attempted with The Legend of Amrapali.

IBR: Part in the book you totally enjoyed writing…

AA: Like the readers, often writers too find themselves being swayed by the twists and pace of a story. In this regard, the last few chapters of the book where the crafty political machinations of the Nagavadhu begin to unfold were the most absorbing ones. I found myself continuously thinking about what would transpire next and had to fight a strong urge to run through the story in a single sitting. At that stage it was extremely difficult for me to keep myself away from the writing table.

IBR: What was the research done for this story? Did it take you long to finalise the finished book?

AA: The research for the book was an extensive process. I not only read and saw all past works that have been done on the subject – from Bollywood movies to television serials and from comic books to novels in other languages, but I also had to do extensive reading about the period – prevailing customs, attire and language of the masses, and the geographical, political and religious factors that played a role in shaping the everyday lives of the people. The research took a little over six months, post which I got down to penning the story. The first satisfactory draft of the book took about 15 months to shape.

IBR: The politics of Vaishali, is that seen even in today’s India?

AA: The nature and form of governance, the players involved and the strategies adopted by them might have differed, but the motivators in the corridors of politics have remained constant through the passage of time. The same greed and lust for power which saw Lord Ram spending fourteen years in exile, which has seen mighty kings being slain by their own brood, and which has got brothers up in arms against their own siblings can still be found lurking in the backdrop of almost every politically significant decision that one hears about today. And sadly enough, these covetous motivators have ingrained themselves into the very fabric of politics, depriving it of any traces of altruism and selflessness.

IBR: How far did you have to deviate from the actual historical Amrapali, to write your story?

AA: As mentioned above, there is not much recorded history pertaining to the life of Amrapali. So much so that the history books do not even tell us the name of the Licchavi king who ruled Vaishali when Amrapali was the kingdom’s Nagarvadhu. Most other works on her life that we have read/ seen have been shaped with varying mixes of facts and fiction. The story of The Legend of Amrapali too, though very different from any of the accounts that you might have countered thus far, is a work of historical-fiction where the facts have been generously garnished with imagination.

IBR: Bold and proactive women are shunned even in today’s society. Yet they triumph. What do you think are the reasons for that?

AA: In a society marred by passivity and tameness, it is only those who exhibit the grit to stand by their beliefs are the ones to eventually taste triumph. The hurdles in the path of these bold ones, especially if they happen to be women, emerge from the insecurities and unrest that result from their non-conformity with what is generally accepted. However, in the end it is invariably their perseverance and the strength of character which see them through. This is aptly demonstrated by the story of Amrapali as well as some women of today who we look up to as role models.

A word of caution though – in today’s times when you have models eager to shred their clothing at the slightest pretext (be it a cricket victory or any other such occasion) and ethics have become subservient to cheap media insertions, it is important that we as a society are able to differentiate between despicable antics and true boldness of character. It is only then that we will be able to shun the contemptible and admire the worthy.

IBR: For men, marriage/spouse is a choice. But for most women it is an accepted choice of the parents or society. Is that changing at all?

AA: I would like to believe that the trend is changing and that women are not only becoming increasingly aware of the kind of life partner they want, but are also seizing the initiative to zero in on the one they wish to spend their lives with. However, this remains primarily an urban phenomenon and in the hinterlands we come across alarming reports of forced or child marriage and even incidents of honour-killings when young couples dare to challenge the diktats of society. As much as we might want to close our eyes to this repugnant underbelly of the country we live in, there is a long way to go before we can call ourselves a mature and a truly progressive nation.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, March 8th, 2012 at 7:34 am and is filed under Authors, Interview. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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