Anand Neelakantan is a story galore, hooking youngsters and others alike with his mythological and historical sagas. To kick start 2020, I don’t think there is any other person who deserves better to be interviewed and published in my humble blog. As most of you by now, know that the space is for those who have influenced me in some or the other way. He is a true word weaver, trapping a word lover’s heart forever. Here is an excerpt from my interactions with him.
Who is a good storyteller according to you?
A good storyteller should be able to entertain, he or she should be able to make the readers think and the story should linger in the readers mind for a longtime.
Who is your favorite mythological character and why?
My favorite mythological character of course is Ravana. That is why my first book is about him. I don’t think there is any other character in any literature in the world who is as fascinating as Ravana. He is actually a complete man, if I may say. He is a man of many accomplishments and he rose from perhaps abject poverty to become the emperor of all the 14 worlds, accomplished a lot of things in life, did a lot of mistakes and he was a great king. Well, he lived like a king and died like a king.
What influenced you to write? Your upbringing, the books you read or passion to write?
I was always fascinated about storytelling. One of the first memories is when I was in 5th or 6th standard, teachers used to call me and ask me to tell stories during free periods. So, I used to tell stories extempore, those days I was influenced by a lot of detective stories in Malayalam, so I used to make extempore detective novels, narrate it in the class. I used to have many young fans who used to listen patiently to my stories. Of course, there are many who didn’t like the stories also, they will be indifferent but still there were 5 to 10 people who will be waiting for me to tell the stories. So I would say that I was always a storyteller. If you ask me, why I have become the kind of storyteller that I am today, I must say that has got to do with the place I grew up. I grew up in Tripunithura in Kerala, which has more temples than perhaps nursery; it has more than 108 temples, a place rich with tradition, art, and music, classical art forms like Kathakali, Ottamthullal and Carnatic music. So, all these influenced me a lot and at any given point of time, some or the other storytelling session would be going on in one temple or another in Bhagavatam, Devi bhagavatam or Puranam or Ramayana or Mahabharata or so something else. So such an environment has influenced me a lot in writing the kind of stories I am writing now.
What is your typical writing day?
I follow of a routine of waking up early in the morning around 4’o clock. By 4.30, I will be at my writing desk and my writing timing is between 4.30 am and 7.30 am. After that I might go for a walk or exercise or swimming and the rest of the time is spent in editing what I have written and reading a lot of books. Basically, writing time is only 3 hours and the rest of the time I chill out.
Tell us about an author who influenced your writing style or thought process?
Oh, there are many authors. I cannot particularly praise 1 author. I read everything, whatever I can hold my hands on. So in childhood, it was Amarchitrakatha, Children’s magazines, Basheer and M.T Vasudevan Nair. In English, I started with Freedom at Midnight at the age of 16; that was the non-textual English book which I read. After that I became a fan of P. G. Wodehouse. I was never a literature student, so I used to pick up any book that pleased, I hated engineering, books were my companions, lots of authors influenced me, and I read both fiction and non-fiction. I have a great admiration for somerset Maugham, PG. Wodehouse, if I talk about English. In Russian literature, I like Leo Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. In Malayalam, of course I like Basheer, Thakazhi and S. K. Pottakkad. I read across the genre. Every author is a role-model for me, but if you insist me to pick one, it is always Bhasa, because he used to write my kind of books. He has written Urubhangam, Karnabharam and other epic tales. He was a revolutionary writer in the 2nd Century BC in India in Sanskrit. Bhasa I have not read, I have heard through Koodiyattam and other art forms.
Any plans to enter into politics as you are a great speaker and as people like listening to you?
I think.. for politics, you need other qualities. Just by speaking well or speaking something, definitely, these are not a part of political process. You need to have various other skills, which I don’t think I have; but I don’t know about the future. If a good opportunity opens up, why not! I am someone who takes life as it come, as I have no limits for my dreams and ambitions. So, when I am dreaming; why not dream big? Why don’t dream about being the head of the state? Or the prime minister of the country? So of course, I have ambitions but nothing is going to happen in near future, so let us see when I have all the books, which I have to write and when my writings reaches a stage where it stagnates, at that time if I get the opportunity, I might think of.
Do you have plans to write other genres?
I have written other genres. For example, Rise of Sivagami or Baahubali is not a mythological series. It is legacy/pseudo-history which I made. For television I have written crime thrillers like Adalat, historical fiction like Chakravarthy Asoka. I also have plans to write horror, humor and other things. I have signed up for a few books with famous publishers as well.