BENGALURU: It may have been three years since Baahubali 2: The Conclusion hit screens but fans have had Anand Neelakantan’s books to look forward to. In 2017, he kickstarted the Trilogy Baahubali: Before the Beginning series, which looks at the journey of Sivagami, Kattappa, etc while revealing the events that led to the films. The series now comes to an end with Queen of Mahishmathi (Westland Publications, Rs 499). Edited excerpts:
How does it feel to pen the final book in this trilogy?
There is a sense of elation and relief. With Baahubali, it was four years. There is a sense of loss. The characters are no longer mine alone, but those of the readers too. I start off with the arrogance of having power over the characters I create.
I can murder some, make some noble and others mean, or that is what I think when I start moulding them. But by the time I finish, they have as much control over me. Letting go of the characters is like children leaving the nest. We can only wish them well and look back at time we spent with nostalgia.
What can readers expect from this book?
A splendid story is what I hope. The second book in a trilogy is the toughest to write as it forms the middle of a story. Since I had got over it in the second book of the series, I was in a flow. I wrote the third one in less than two months. From a historical fiction, this book mutated to a thriller with a crackling climax.
The first book came out in 2017. The second came out in July last year and the new book in December. What was your writing process?
This is a prequel to a blockbuster movie and forms the basis of an upcoming Netflix series. It differs from my more reflective books like Asura, Ajaya or Vanara. In my earlier books, I had used epic characters and showed a different point of view. In the Baahubali series, except Kattappa, Sivagami and Bijjala Deva, the rest of the characters and the plot are my creation. This trilogy also has socio-political layers and debate on what is dharma, but the storytelling style is action oriented and racy.
What challenges did you face working with characters the audience is familiar with?
Director S S Rajamouli and the producers commissioned me to expand the world of Baahubali. They gave me freedom to pick the characters I needed from the film and add more.
I had chosen Sivagami, Kattappa and Bijjala Deva and worked backward rather than use Baahubali and tell the story from where the film ends. That gave me more leeway to experiment. The challenge was to match the grandeur of a blockbuster film with mere words on paper.
What made you pick Sivagami?
I love to work with characters with shades of grey. In the film, Sivagami orders the death of her adopted son Baahubali. What could be greyer than that?
You also recently released a children’s book. How did you juggle multiple projects?
I work on multiple projects, that is how I tackle writer’s block. Last year, I published three books, of which one was the children’s book. The other two were the two books in the Baahubali series. I also completed the script of a Bollywood film and screenplays of two OTT shows. I completed two audio books too. Writing for children is the toughest and most satisfying job.