All you writers out there, hark! What’s wrong with you? This is Bharat, dudes – the land of a million copyright-free stories – where forty-year-olds go to sleep, nursing a warm glass of spiked milk, only when their wives tell them the same stories their grandmas did. So don’t break your lit-fest-craving-bestseller-hallucinating heads thinking up new plots. All you have to do is retell, repackage, rename and laugh all the way to the bank, or not, if you do net banking.
Go ahead, write any of these books. They are as much yours as mine. Be sure to use the titles, though. Also, include buff men with anabolic six packs on the cover. Throw in a battle sequence in the background. And a bustier-clad damsel wouldn’t hurt either.
The Swingers of Kishkinda
This tail of love and betrayal between two warring simian brothers and their women features epic battles with mace and bow, nail-biting suspense and monkey business that would make Shobaa De blush. All set in the verdant, vine-dripping backdrop of Kishkinda, where the native vanaras swing like it’s the ’60s. Does good triumph over evil? Who inherits Kishkinda? Whose tail is bigger? Also starring Hanuman, Son of Vayu; Angada, Slayer of Narantaka, and the divinely beauteous nymph Tara, in the middle of it all.
The Stand-Up-Comic of Vijayanagar
It is the 16th century. The Kingdom of Vjayanagar is at its zenith under the rule of Krishna D. Raya. But it is under constant threat from the Bahmanis, Gajapatis and random petty warriors. The palace is rife with rogues and scholars alike. Enter comic relief in the form of T R Krishna, poker-faced pundit-comedian with ready wit and punch-lines that would send Kapil Sharma scurrying for a new gag writer. Scalding cats, cheating thieves, getting the Raya to dress up in drag, piggyback riding on the sly Thaathachari – what’s he going to do next? Hilarious medieval mayhem.
The Moderator of the Mughals
Or the Singer who became General. Or the Legend of Mahesh Das Bhatt. Or First Among Nine. Or The Man who Made Akbar the Great Greater. Birbal has made more money for publishers than Tenali Rama and Mullah Nasruddin put together. Even Rushdie turned to him when Padma left. It’s your turn now. What do you want him to do? Send you a letter saying “Dear Desperate-for-a-Bestseller Rewriter... Please feel free to use me. Yours sincerely, Raja Birbal”?
The Sleep Apneac of Lanka
If you’ve decided to go with this one, you might as well get yourself those FabIndia kurtas because you are about to be a bestselling writer rubbing shoulders with some of the finest, most pretentious ones in Jaipur. C’mon, the story of Kumbhakarna is the ultimate Indian male fantasy. It’s the story of a guy who sleeps for six months, and eats monks as hors d’oeuvres, parties, and wreaks general mayhem in the other six. And he isn’t even considered the black sheep of the family. Because he has a ten-headed elder brother who makes Lex Luthor look like Mary Poppins.
The Amnesiac of Gandhara
The story of Shakuntala and Dushyanta has everything. A forgetful husband, a raging sage, lost jewellery, delicious fish curry interrupted mid-recipe, a pining wood nymph of a heroine, and a boy who will eventually rule our country. Top that.
The Consigliere of the Mauryas
What better way to enter the bestseller list than by writing about one of our first bestselling writers without an FB page or Twitter handle of his own? The guy I speak of was a teacher, philosopher, economist, political scientist and author of Arthaśāstra, which went into reprint just two weeks after its release, if Flipkart is to be believed. Add to this a powerful king for a bff, delicious palace intrigue and a guest appearance by Alexander the Great. Don’t worry just because this story has already been turned into a bestselling book. See the rocking 1970s Telugu film Chanakya–Chandragupta starring ANR and NTR for inspiration. It’s got Sivaji Ganesan in a blond wig and miniskirt playing Alexander. You’ll realise there is much more to be milked from this teat.
The Frequent Flyer of the Vanaras
If you ask me, the greatest role model for Indian males is Hanuman. He is the eternal bachelor, he flies off to exotic locations, he carries a mace, he’s got a multi-purpose tail, he’s immortal and he’s a part of the first family of India: that of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana & Co. I think there is much left to be mined from this chiranjeevi.
The Husband of Shrutakirti
If Sage Valmiki were around, he would realise there’s been a grave oversight. He’s paid tribute to the greatest man that ever lived, the most loyal brother there ever was, another brother who had his own super-sentimental sandal episode, but ended up completely ignoring the fourth brother. Other than killing Lavanasura (that’s not a baby saying Ravanasura but a real character) and marrying Shrutakirti, not much is known about him. It’s yours for the taking. Sing for the unsung Ikshvaku.
The Item Girls of Indraloka
Want a penance interrupted? A demi-god corrupted? A sage compromised? A boon undone? Who you gonna call? The Item Girls of Indraloka, of course. AKA Rambha, Urvashi, Menaka and Tilottama ... the Charlie’s Angels of Dwapara/Treta Yugas. Have your copyright lawyer within grabbing distance because the exploits of these weapons of mass distraction come pre-approved by Ekta Kapoor with the possibility of a big budget vehicle starring anyone you choose because you’ve been smart enough to include a veto rights in the casting clause.
Krishna Shastri Devulapalli has written two novels (Ice Boys in Bell-Bottoms, Jump Cut) and a play (Dear Anita). His new book, The Tambura Twanger of Thiruvayyaru, might be due for release in December.
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