By Nanditha Sankar:
For a long time, Indian kids found their superheroes across borders from names like Batman, Superman, Spiderman and every other character weaved by global comic leagues. While the men from Gotham ,Krypton and New York went on hogging the limelight, their Indian counterparts were left behind in the annals of time. The greatest Indian epic, the Mahabharat, was popular as long as it was aired on television and went back into oblivion for a long time to come. The only idea that Indian kids had on our mythology was limited to the 25 pages of the Amar Chitra Katha comics. The picture seemed dull and drab for the brave souls of our past.
The tables turned a few years ago when in 2009, a small dhoti-clad lad from the land of Dholakpur with a fetish for ladoos forayed into our lives. His name was Chota Bheem and he has since then gone on to carve a niche among global superheroes. The television series went on to become a raging hit and was followed by movies and an entire franchise of children’s merchandise. Such was his popularity that Chota Bheem’s powerbooster, the ladoo, garnered the same hype as Popeye’s spinach. Chota Bheem’s predecessor, Hanuman was a hit as well, albeit in smaller proportions. Following the success of these two heroes, more arrived.
If you thought that this uprising was limited to the tiny tots alone, you are wrong. A motley group of authors came out with literature that blended Indian myth with fantastic creativity. In Chanakya’s Chant, India’s manager of yore, Chanakya has a leased life in the present times while in the much-hyped Shiva Trilogy which has even lapped up films, Lord Shiva comes across as an ordinary mortal. Why is this genre of literature suddenly burgeoning into a sizable element among literature aficionados?
Indian mythology is a rich treasure trove of tales, rich in plurality and character. The usual concept of seeing things in just two shades of black and white dissolves as we’re introduced into epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Every character is depicted as humane, prone to errors. Be it Prince Ram who abandoned his wife at the musings of a villager or Kunti (Mahabharata) who cannot bolster up courage to accept her illegitimate son, these icons are prone to folly. It is this very same attribute, when incorporated into the myth-books of present day, that has catapulted them to fame. Shiva smokes pot, swears and still maintains his aura in Shiva Trilogy. In Asura, the vanquished have voices of their own as we get to hear a different take on the Ramayana.
Modern day publishing houses place pre-release publicity of supreme importance. Novel ideas in publicity, such as designing prospective book covers for the yet-to-be released book and inviting readers to theme-based book launches have struck a chord with the Indian readers. Those who wore Harry Potter attire were seen sporting the Trishul or a 10-faced mask with the same zest. Moreover, these books come at extremely affordable rates. Staying honest to the Indian habit of checking the price tag first, this comes as a sure-shot sale booster.
The resurgence of Indian mythology has not been a one-day phenomenon. It has risen, failed and came back with greater fervor. Kudos to men like Devdutt Patnaik (author of Jaya), Amish Tripathi (Shiva Trilogy), Ashwin Sanghi (Chanakya’s Chant) and the rest of their bandwagon for this rebirth. Who knows, in the days to come, a Warner Brothers or Universal Studio would be vying for the next big desi-version of Justice League with our home-grown heroes, when Hanuman would meet Nagraj,Â ShivaÂ and the 101 Kauravas.Â The list is endless.