Stories within stories, plots within plots, layers within layers. Drama, politics, intrigue, passion. Religion, ethics, culture, and philosophy. Love lust, greed, and revenge – which single story brilliantly covers all of the above, while telling the fascinating tale of hundreds of characters spanning several generations?
Undoubtedly, the Mahabharata is the most complex story ever told – and it's no surprise, then, that the lure of Indian mythology is irresistible!
The majority of my generation grew up on Mahabharata and the Ramayana; not necessarily the epics in their entirety, but we enjoyed a comfortable familiarity with the antics of well-loved superheroes, as recounted to us by grandmothers and mothers. The magical stories of Ram at Sita's swayamvar, Arjuna's skills at archery and Hanuman lifting an entire mountain for just one Sanjeevani buti plant were common lore.
Baahubali, that larger-than-life, game-changing crusader whose exploits are the stuff legends are made of.
Sadly, the current crop of urban 20-somethings never watched BR Chopra's magnum opus on Sunday mornings. With the invasion of Hollywood, they were raised on Superman and Batman and found the same comfort in the Marvel universe as my peers did in Amar Chitra Katha.
And then came Baahubali, that larger-than-life, game-changing crusader whose exploits are the stuff legends are made of. He was all the superheroes rolled into one, moving monolithic statues, taming renegade elephants and leaping through waterfalls with consummate skill.
Here was our amplified, modern day Arjuna, whose CGI-enhanced feats captivated the nation. Baahubali was loved by all - he is the ideal son, the desirable lover, the perfect king. Everyone identified with him – from dada-dadi to pota-poti. India's curiosity was piqued as never before, and the last few weeks have seen droves of us heading to theaters to discover why Kattappa killed Baahubali.
Setting aside the extravagant sets, visual splendour, lavish production values and computer graphics, the script is not particularly path-breaking. It's been done before, in scores of Bollywood movies. To me, the success of Baahubali lies in its ties to Indian mythological roots, to the ethos that is so irrevocably ingrained in our DNA.
You can't quite take the epics out of us - we Indians love our sanskaras, our traditions, our history, our grandiose, invincible warriors, and our complex yet subtle philosophy.
We identify at a visceral level with Kattappa's fierce loyalty, Sivagami's decision to sacrifice Amarendra despite her love for him, Bhallaladeva's Duryodhana-like villainy and Devasena's Draupadi-esqe willingness to follow her husband into banishment. It's what we know, what we understand, and we love it.
'Creating a fictitious medieval world with Guardians of the Blue Lotus- Aryavir has been a labour of love for me.'
Happily, the resurgence of the Indian mythological genre has come with its own twist. It's not the good-old story rehashed – today's characters actually act out of character, lending new dimensions to stories that stayed the same over the centuries.
The modern Draupadi nurtures a secret love for Karna, and the reinvented Shiva becomes his omnipotent self only after he has endured human suffering and loss. We've lapped them up and are hungry for more.
Indian mythology has resonated deeply with me for as long as I can remember, and creating a fictitious medieval world with Guardians of the Blue Lotus- Aryavir has been a labour of love for me. Since there are several versions of the existing mythological characters out there, Aryavir and the world he lives in has emerged as a complete figment of my imagination – built around the same mythological roots I grew up reading.
I see the story as an homage to India's magnificent mythological heritage and, which at its heart, is endearing stories about the eternal human journey.