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Rhyme and reason in the Mahabharata.

LIKE graceful dancers, Karthika Nair's poems flow through the pages of her book. They are not constricted by any form, and change both shapes and fonts as and when there is a change in perspective within her book, Until The Lions ( Harper- Collins; ` 799).

For the Paris- based dance producer, who was a " journalist long, long back in the ' 90s", the connection between poetry and dance is a natural one. " The movement between these two forms is extremely organic to me. Words must move, especially poetry. What you see on the page is the way the poems move in my head," says Nair.

The pages and the poems inside Until The Lions present the perspectives of 19 marginalised voices in the Mahabharata . Taken from an African proverb (' Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter') the title itself alludes to how the book lays down the side of those who were stamped upon in the due course of the epic.

Other than the 18 voices of characters such as Hidimbi, Gandhari and Kunti, Nair herself creates another voice -- that of a dog named ' Shunaka' -- since " epics in general have a lot of incidents of animal cruelty". The reign of narration, too, Nair keeps in the hands of someone amongst the 19.

Instead of Vyasa, who is the Mahabharata 's author/ narrator, it's his mother Satyavati who drives the narrative forward in Until The Lions . " I saw her as someone who was selfaware," says Nair about her.

" I saw her as someone who knew what her ambitions and goals were from the very beginning. She also had a position of power and was a master of real politics." The Mahabharata , says Nair, is ultimately an epic struggle for political power. She says, " It is more of a series of equation between people who want to obtain or maintain or sustain power and social order. The Mahabharata sets a lot of importance on social order. Most of the injustices dealt to certain characters are in the name of social order." Her desire to shine the spotlight on those certain characters is influenced, in part, by another retelling of the Mahabharata . " I read one fascinating retelling by Arun Kolatkar, Sarpa Satra , where he looks at the Mahabharata through the gaze of serpents, many of whom die during the snake sacrifice.

It quite upended my narrative preconceptions," she says.

Nair's reimagining of the Mahabharata , considering her profession, is already in talks of being turned into several adaptations.

" The one which is nearest, in terms of calendar, is Akram Khan's adaptation of the Amba/ Shikhandi chapter, which premiers in January," she says.

As Until The Lions moves ahead into its natural progression, Nair is quite confident that her book will be safe from the hiccups that some retellings of mythological epics have suffered after publication. " What I have tried to do is being true to the voices. And if you ban the imaginative act or curtail it, you are not going to get a society of human beings," she stresses, " You will get a society of androids." By Srijani Ganguly Between the lines The poems present the perspectives of 19 marginalised voices in the epic

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Oct 11, 2015
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