While Tripathi has spoken a lot about his book, Raavan: Enemy of Aryavarta, in this interview, he speaks about why he chose to portray Raavan with utmost objectivity.
Why did you portray Raavan as a victim of circumstance?
In modern India, the tradition of seeing Raavan with a simplistic black and white approach is relatively recent. It wasn’t the same way that Raavan was portrayed in the ancient versions of the Ramayana. I don’t try and hide his bad qualities – yes, he is brutally violent and he has a massive ego.
But there is good in him as well. I am not the only one showcasing this. It is there in the original Valmiki Ramayana as well, that he was a scholar, a learned man, a very good musician, a very good administrator – these were his positive qualities. All the women in your books, be it Sita or Manthara, have an agency. They’re not docile and submissive women.
My interpretation of women is unlike the interpretation of the modern era. That’s not how our ancient stories were. Even in Sanskrit texts written in ancient times, women were portrayed differently. For example, in the play, Charu Dutt, Vasantsena is a strong woman. She may not be a warrior but she will do what she thinks is right.
This is the first time that you have put the face of the lead character on the cover.
We (my illustration team and I) wanted to challenge the fundamental assumption that Raavan is just a monstrous, violent man, but we are also trying to show that he is a deep, complex man. and his face kind of shows that depth, pain and anger. Then there are a lot of hidden clues in the illustration for the aficionados among my readers.