Ravi Venu is a debutant author of 'I, Rama' (reviewed here) - the first book of a trilogy on Ramayana. Ravi has keen interest in mythological and legendary subjects, and has done a lot of research on various great heroes and hero worship across multiple civilizations.
Here through this e-interview, he shares his experience of penning down his first book and his views on various other subjects.
1. What made you pick mythology as the theme for your first book?
I am a history and mythology buff and I believe Myths have a starting point in history somewhere. Also, some of the greatest minds have written the epics of Mahabarat and Ramayan foreseeing the future and keeping in line with the past.
I also believe Mythology holds key to some of our critical lost links in evolution and thereby our future and when put together, it makes a fantastic meet for a progressive mind.
Having grown up hearing these great tales, it is essential that these epics be retold for the coming generations to make them associate with their roots. I felt the urge to talk Rama, my most favourite God, who knows what it is to run a life of a human and so it began.
2. What idea inspired you to retell Ramayana? What did you feel was missing in the earlier versions of this great epic?
Rama, is the need of the hour to many of us, although we brush it aside as a simple story with not much of drama enough, to be very dry with a lot of 'gyan', the tale is pregnant with several sequences that bring about the God in him or the lift to eternity by humans.
Rama, unlike all the other Gods can feel what it is to be a complete human - he was a caring brother, duty bound son, loving husband and a righteous ruler. He faces very strong road blocks on his way, which are not necessary for him to clear, yet, to uphold a cause, he walks the path, the reasons and consequences are the very core of the concept that pulled me to talk Ramayana.
And, I would not necessarily say missing but they can be arranged to make people relate and read to make some notes to their own lives. For instance, we all know Rama's guru was Vishwamitra, but "why" Vishwamitra is something that the epics don't spell out. Being a Guru, the great brahma rishi disappears after teaching. What happens then?
Why does Kaikeyi not use the boons and pursue using with her husband whom she fought so keen to save? Knowing Bharata, the righteous one, very well, how did she think Rama's exile will be welcomed by him and the throne usurped? Several questions such as who is Shoorpanaka and so on, we need to connect.
If you read Ramayana as a text, you will understand Rama the Right, but do we comprehend how and why Rama "is" Rama the Right ? That is which we need to understand in today's world.
3. The women characters in your story come across as very strong and confident characters with thinking minds of their own. What was the inspiration behind these characters ?
Well, women are that, aren't they? They are strong and are capable of much larger things than what many believe in.
I always believe that there is definitely a woman behind every man, driving him. My mother of course was an inspiration for me to start appreciating women and they continue to fascinate me.
I have been a fan of several women characters in books, be it Hermione Granger or Kundhavai of Kalki's works.
And as Rama says in the book "women are more powerful than all the celestial weapons put together"
4. Are you satisfied with the way - I,Rama has shaped up and the response of readers for the same ?
Yes, for now, the book is just beginning to see the light.
I am looking at a good number of younger generation reading and enjoying it. Rama's story is of two ways, the 'how to be good' and the 'Cause & Consequence' effect.
I have tried to conceptualize and portray the latter, as per the laws of nature. If you notice the epic well, Rama never judges any one nor does he hold a grudge and mostly takes an action based on a previous action.
He is a fantastic listener and a phenomenal management guru, these are some areas I want the future readers to understand and hence connect with the immortal energy by the name 'Rama'.
5. What all research did you undertake for I, Rama and now for the two subsequent books ?
Research wise - Mostly online and books of Stephen hawking, theories and documentation about human evolution and migration patterns and similar works. I do read Valmiki's version for cross reference.
I also follow some 14th century works which give pointers into the epic.
6. How much time did the whole process take - from the inception of the idea to the final product in hand?
The inception was some 3 years ago, I penned the first chapter of the aged Rama introspecting, but then I could only write a few lines and more research and other domestic situations came to the front. Rama however, held me through the time and ensured that His book is done.
The book came up as a product in the month of May 2012.
7. You must have gone through various stages of the process involved in getting a book in the market after you finished writing it. Could you please share with us your experience of this process, how easy or difficult it is for a beginner in this field?
Honestly, it is very difficult being a writer, publisher and distributor. The marketing is another giant, coming from the USA, with Amazon it is not very difficult to market / publish / sell one's product but then India is still developing in that area. I hope people encourage my work and more such authors. Creativity is born in writing, I hope there are a lot of creative writers coming up, especially Indians.
By the way, I am trying to launch a web portal to help people with a platform to show case their books and sell them online via some of the leading shopping companies.
8. What next after trilogy? Do you plan to work on Mahabharata after Ramayana?
I am working on two stories apart from my next volumes, one is on Skanda and other is a super natural - historical thriller based on the Gajini plunder of Somnath and the Cholas at that time as a Pan-India book.
9. Among the contemporary authors, who inspires you the most? Who is your all time favourite author? Which are your favourite books ?
My favorite would be JK Rowling, Sidney Sheldon and Dan Brown. Among current Indian authors, I have read and enjoyed Mr.Banker's Armies of Hanuman.
All time favorite and guru of my mind is Kalki R Krishnamurthy.
Favorite books are a plenty, of course the great Indian epics.
10. Why do you think so many people are working on retelling/redefining mythology these days? Doesn't every individual redefine a story and its characters in his/her unique manner and that is how it should be?
Depends on the individual, I believe most of the stories across the globe are broken down pieces from our epics, India is a country that wrote epics when the rest of the world was still working on cave drawings. But today, India is developing and most of the west is developed. A young India needs a connect with its roots and more towards the contemporary settings.
For instance, 20 years ago, a person from the west would ridicule an Indian for some beliefs, but if you observe evolution is best explained in these Indian myths, which the west found out with Darwin. By modifying a base gene FoxP2, animals and humans can communicate, today we do not know how it is possible but our epics show that cross species communication and mutation was very much there. Reptiles were born before birds and artificial insemination etc were found in these myths. Space travel and distance between planets etc is again talked about in these epics, which is still in research.
Today, armed with these epics, Indian younger generation has a future to face with massive clues to a highly creative world, all they need to do is look at the clues provided and there will be Steve Jobs and Spielberg in every town.
My task with I, Rama, at least, was to to help propel the thought process of youth in a progressive way, to see these epics with an eye to the world ahead, after all, imagination is the key to evolution.