With five bestsellers under his belt, Amish could well be credited with making mythology fashionable in India. In an interview with Smitha Verma, he discusses why mythology sells and how an author’s imagination is fertile ground for mythological interpretations. Edited excerpts:
Why blur the lines between fiction and myth to create mass-market fiction?
Our mythology (or the Indian term, pauranik katha) has been a part of our culture for many millennia. I don’t think there would be any Indian, regardless of religion, caste or language, who would not be aware of these stories in some or the other version. They are part of our genes, part of our bones. I don’t think anything has to be done to make them ‘mass’. They are already ‘mass’.
Why not create an original character rather than rely on myth?
The root of the word ‘myth’ is the Greek word mythos. Greeks will tell you that mythos means a story that hides a philosophical truth. And that is why myths work well. A story is a vehicle to convey the wisdom of our Vedic ancestors. We are one of the few ancient cultures that is still alive… and one of the reasons for that is our myths and stories. Culture is essentially shared imagination and imagination is built through stories. Our myths and stories have always been popular and that is why our culture is still alive.
How much liberty can a writer take when interpreting mythology?
The concept of interpreting and modernising myths has been around in India for millennia, almost as old as the stories themselves. The key is to attempt the interpretation with love and respect.
What do you feel about the new range of books coming on lesser-known mythological characters?
I am delighted with the new range of books on our mythology. We should have more and more interpretations coming out. Our ancient culture is so rich that we can spend lifetimes exploring it and learning from it.
How has the response been to your books?
My five books (The Immortals of Meluha, The Secret of the Nagas, The Oath of the Vayuputras, Scion of Ikshvaku and Sita: Warrior of Mithila) have sold four million copies till now. And they have been translated into 19 regional and foreign languages.