With the launch of ‘Immortals of Meluha’, emerged a new writer whose story telling and the style of fusing mythology with fiction was an instant hit. Amish Tripathi, with his Shiva Trilogy became the largest selling fiction author of the country.
We got a chance to interact with Amish Tripathi and he got candid over his success, his inspiration, his devotion to lord Shiva and controversies surrounding authors in India. Below are the excerpts from the interview:
MI: We have read that you are a graduate from St. Xavier’s college,Mumbai and did your post-graduation from IIM Calcutta. You also had a successful career in banking industry but suddenly moved into writing. How did you take that leap of faith?
Amish Tripathi: The decision to become a full time writer was a pragmatic decision. I decided to become a full time writer only after the success of my second book. I come from a humble middle class family and cannot afford to be irresponsible (Jokingly). I resigned only when my royalty cheque became larger than my salary. Some people may call it boring but I call it being pragmatic.
Your family is a very religious family coming from Varanasi. So can you tell us how did the idea of Immortals of Meluha come about?
Amish Tripathi: See, there are two things. One must have knowledge about the scriptures and the second is that should somehow turn into a story. The knowledge of our scriptures, our mythology, our history, fortunately, transpired from my family. My grandfather was a pundit from Kashi (Varanasi) and my parents are also very religious so I learn a lot from them and read a lot as well. I read around 4-5 books a month and have maintained that pace for decades. So all that knowledge was there in the back of the mind. But just having knowledge doesn’t mean you can write stories. I genuinely believe the story itself was the blessing of lord Shiva.
Amish Tripathi: Primarily, I read non-fiction. It would be genres of mythology, spirituality, history, economics or politics. I do read some fiction though.
If we talk about the inspiration behind writing about mythology, do you believe that was it your grandfather or your roots or the religious nature of the family or any particular source that inspired you to write about mythology?
Amish Tripathi: I think it would be all of them put together. The spark itself was the debate within the family about what is evil and the nature of evil and that was the genesis of the Shiva Trilogy, philosophical exploration into what is evil? It got converted into an adventure as to how to convey that philosophy. If, I am writing about evil the best hero is the destroyer of evil, Lord Shiva.
So something on your writing style. You have won a lot of accolades about how you present into a storytelling form and how interestingly you develop the plot. Who would you credit your writings style to, may be something you have read?
Amish Tripathi: Frankly, I don’t know where to give that credit. I didn’t even want to be a writer when I was young and I mainly read non-fiction so I can’t give any earthly reason for the writing, which is why anything that makes sense to me is the blessing of lord Shiva. The story just comes to me, I open the laptop and this parallel universe that comes up and I write whatever I see.
You seem an ardent follower of lord Shiva through your social media interactions. Do you worship him rigorously in your personal life?
Amish Tripathi: I worship him every morning. I visit Shiva temple every Monday, I wear a rudraksha mala and an ‘Om Namah Shivay’ kada but I am not saying that this is something everyone should do. You should do something that feels right to you.
Amish Tripathi: Certainly yes. I mean I turned into an atheist in early 90s. So, writing my first book actually brought me back to faith and it changed me dramatically. I became a far calmer person, far happier in life.
Amish Tripathi: It’s completely unreal. I always say I am in my dreams, don’t wake me up.
Amish Tripathi: You are right. The books have fortunately received praise for the story and for the philosophy but yes the language, some critics have not liked it. But my only submission is, I wasn’t born in an elite family and I come from a middle class background. So my primary language for conversations has always been Hindi. I speak the English most of Indians speak. So if there are any mistakes that I make, I try my best to improve and not repeat my mistakes. Having said that, I am not going to change my style and start writing in the kind of English British write. But certainly, if I make mistakes I am willing to learn.
According to you gods are nothing but great human beings who did great and legend made them gods. Do you personally believe in the idea or you would consider it more of a form of storytelling. And after Neelkanth and Rama, which god would you like to write about?
Amish Tripathi: Yes. I have many story ideas in my mind which I have not put in Shiva trilogy. I have enough ideas for next 20-25 years to keep writing about. As far as gods are concerned, I am not saying I can prove is but I believe they were our ancestors and we should look up to them as role models.
So when is the next book on Ram Chandra series coming out?
Amish Tripathi: I have started writing already but it takes me 18 months to 2 years between books on average.
You would agree that writing or making any piece of art on religion is a very sensitive topic in India as the religious fundamentalism has grown in the past decade. While writing do you take into consideration that I may face backlash from the readers?
Amish Tripathi: Have you ever heard of any controversy on my name?
Amish Tripathi: I am telling you what I have learnt in life, that is, 95% controversies in India are created by authors themselves for the sake of publicity. I genuinely believe that if you want to write a book there is no better country than India to do it. The controversies can emerge but if you are writing a different story and you write with your heart, show it in the book. Then, even people who don’t like it would feel this writer has written it with respect and devotion and controversies would not happen. I may sound theoretical or philosophical but if you write with honesty in your heart, nothing will happen.
Amish Tripathi: Whenever the movie is going to be made I am not going to write the script as I am busy writing my books. I am there as a creative consultant and that’s my role.
Any timelines for the movie?
Amish Tripathi: It will take some time and would not happen soon.
And there is also a Hollywood production house that has brought the rights? Any news on this?
Amish Tripathi: Yeah, there is. But I think it’s too early to say anything.
A lot of writers follow you across platforms and also read and write for us. Any word of advice for the budding writers in India?
Amish Tripathi: I always say that when you are writing write with your heart and don’t bother whether you succeed or not. There is always a practical suggestion I would like to give- Always have a job on your side so that you are not forced to compromise on your writing. Third thing is when your book is ready, you have to practically decide that you have to do proper marketing.
So, with this point, we recall that your book was rejected by a lot of publishing houses and then you decided to self-publish it with your friend. Would you suggest it is right way to go forward if you have faith in your book?
Amish Tripathi: The way I see it, ideally it should be published by a main stream publisher because India is a big country and distribution is a big challenge. Sometimes we forget how big India is. So having a professional publisher supporting you is a benefit. If no one backs you then you back yourself. So, self publishing is more like you have the right to make your voice heard and no should have the right to stop you.
We would really like to thank Amish Tripathi for this interaction.
Here’s a video capturing the journey of ‘Shiva Trilogy’ for our readers.
Let us know what you feel about the interview and who else you would want to read about in our next interview through the comments section below.