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The popularity of mythological writing breaks old records and creates new stars

T COULD have been fantasy or even myth. Yet, not many in the Indian publishing world were all that surprised or even shocked, when banker-turnedauthor Amish Tripathi, 38, bagged a whopping Rs 5 crore deal for his next series after his best-selling Shiva trilogy. It is the biggest advance paid to an Indian author by a homegrown publishing house, Westland. Yet, it is no high-stakes gamble. With five lakh copies of his mythological fantasy The Oath of the Vayuputras having sold within a day of its release last month, Tripathi is seen as the new mytho-fantasy superstar. The large advance is also an acknowledgment that books on myths and fantasy are the hot new moneymakers in publishing. Karan Johar has already bought the rights of Tripathis first book, The Immortals of Meluha, showing Bollywoods interest in it. Tripathis advance is just the tip of the iceberg. The genre has been gaining popularity for almost a decade. The trend began in the early 2000s with Ashok Bankers series on the Ramayana and Mahabharata followed by a number of books, mostly slick, fastpaced thrillers, based on characters from Indian mythology. This was followed by Tripathis Shiva trilogy and Anand Neelakantans Asura which is based on a re-interpretation of the asura king, Ravana. Currently, the market is flooded with a number of books belonging to the myth and fantasy genre and many of them are doing well. This is part of a global trend that favours books in the pure fantasy and myth genre; however in India it is based on a re-interpretation of ancient Indian mythology but told in a contemporary, fast-paced style. Nandita Aggarwal, publishing director, adult and business books, with Hachette India, says, Since Bankers series, there has been no looking back. These stories based on popular myths appeal to the Indian mindset and it works well for us. Over the last few years, they have become fantastically popular in India. I would say that as compared to other genres, mythology is way ahead and is the genre to watch out for in the future. Publishers acknowledge that the names to watch out for in the genre are Ashwin Sanghi (The Krishna Key), Anand Neelakantan (Asura: Tale of the Vanquished) and Krishna Udayasankar (Govinda: The Aryavarta Chronicles). The list also includes Devdutt Pattanaik who has written books centered around myth and management; former editor and journalist Sandipan Deb whose recent release The Last War is a modern day version of the Mahabharata set in Mumbai and Sangeeta Bahadurs Jaal, a complete work of mytho-fantasy not based on a deity but set against the backdrop of the epic age. Anuj

I want to explore the epics as tales of humanity, not divinity, as something that could have been history and not some improbable fantasy that defied all logic and science, says Krishna Udayasankar

Bahri of Bahri Sons, a popular Delhi bookstore, who is also Tripathis agent, says,Fantastic writing has become extremely popular over the past few years. Harry Potter is probably the highest selling book in fantastic writing globally. In India, fantastic writing starts from mythology where you are largely relooking at the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Mythology has over the past few years made it to the forefront of publishing. It is for this reason that we have added a new section which is all fantasy. VK Karthika, chief editor at Harper Collins, adds, Quite a few books in the myth and fantasy genre have been extremely successful, as a result, many authors are giving a different but rather vibrant spin to old myths and this is popularising this writing. Tripathis Shiva trilogy is

MARCH 24-30, 2013