Tara and Michelle discuss which "myths" changed the way they view the world, and which left no impression on them at all. In this episode, they cover the reason behind the unfailing popularity of myths, mythology books, screen adaptations and much more. Was it Adipurush’s dialogues that led to its downfall? How much VFX is too much? Why do we still love Amar Chitra Katha?
Tune in to find out!
Books mentioned in this episode:
Movies mentioned in the episode
‘Books and Beyond with Bound’ is the podcast where Tara Khandelwal and Michelle D’costa uncover how their books reflect the realities of our lives and society today. Find out what drives India’s finest authors: from personal experiences to jugaad research methods, insecurities to publishing journeys. Created by Bound, a storytelling company that helps you grow through stories. Follow us @boundindia on all social media platforms.
Tara Khandelwal 00:04
Hi everybody, welcome back to Books and Beyond. We are back with another Tara and Michelle episode. And today we are going to be talking about myths, books versus reputations, what makes them successful and what makes them now, over the last 10 years, there have been so many adaptations of MS in different formats, whether it is movies, TV shows and the like. And this is not a new phenomenon. I remember growing up watching Rama Anna on TV after school, Amar Chitra Katha are fascinating fascination with myths, dates back to 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of years. In fact, the first myth that was recorded was the story of Gilgamesh, which is recorded in 5000 BCE. Michelle, what was your favorite and first sort of, in way your memory of your of Indian mythology?
Michelle D'costa 00:59
You know, for viewers who don't know, I wasn't in India for a very long time. So I was born and raised in Bahrain. And I remember really looking forward to our vacations because that's what I used to count on and actually get books. And I remember looking at books, which had Indian mythological stories, and one story that has always stayed with me is a club years, who because of his dedication towards his guru, right, where he learns archery, and he actually has to, you know, cut his tongue in favor of basically his guru to, you know, sort of this guru adduction. And that is something that has stayed with me for a very long time. But it's not just that first time that I actually noticed a book, especially to do with, you know, with our logical stories was I was just traveling by the local train, as I usually do to come to the bound office and discovered stood out to me and I noticed or I'll you know, this generally as a bookworm, I'm always curious, right? So even if the person has the book open, I always want to see what is the title. And when I noticed it was actually immortals of Melua. And it was not the only one trust me literally, almost every I'd had somebody reading the same book. And I was really curious. I mean, what does this book have? Right? What is in it? Is it just the fact that it's based on a Hindu mythology, right? Is it just like, because it's, you know, the characters in the book are popular, what is it? And then I realized that it's a series, you know, so let's say, you know, you're done with one book, you're already looking forward to the next week, right? And it's sort of just it creates this, you know, curiosity in you to find out what happens next. So I really, really love the fact that he took something which we already knew, which we have grew up on, and then he's fictionalized it and made it sort of
Tara Khandelwal 02:40
very interesting about this whole thing. You see, these myths have been around for years and years, right? How 1000s of years. And I'm and I'm habita, they're not war stories. They're sort of the foundational, also foundational texts for a lot of stories, right? Like, we have this whole concept called universal story structure. And these are texts that actually really follow that very well. What I find really interesting is actually people's obsession with mythology, and their obsession to the fact that, you know, they are able to study this context over years and years and years. So we interviewed Russia. And we asked him this question. We said that, yeah, you know, she's a Ramayana scholar. And she's written about it. And she studied it for over 20 years. And we asked her, you know, why why assassination might not something else. And she said it is because it's just that rich. And what makes it so rich is not just the story and the bare bones of the story itself, that we all know the broad strokes, you all know that okay, you know, Rama and Sita get exiled Sita gets taken by Raja was bad. We know the characters, we know the broad strokes. But within each of those broad strokes, each different cultures over the years have adapted the story in different ways. So whether it comes with the way that people talk, or whether it comes to, you know, even small variations in the story. And what I find what makes it interesting is not the broad strokes of the method itself. But the fact that there's so many characters with a word in our lives. And when you think of something like, you know, tip of the iceberg, you know, which is what Savior authors have that when you read a book, and when you read a character, you are only looking at the tip of the iceberg, because the character because the author has created this entire world in order to sort of construct reality. And that is what I find very interesting in these books, because there are hundreds of characters, and they all have their own eyes books, right? They all have their own stories. And that's what I find interesting. And I think with books, because you don't have a visual medium, and because the nature of books is such that it is character based, right as storytellers and even in movies, but we really can get into inner monologues in a way that I don't think we can get in movies and and so I think that that is very interest sticking in books, and that is why, you know, even though he's in this huge influx of adaptations retellings, this hunger and appetite for more books, and books are doing well, in the short movies, you know, we'll come to later. But that's my take.
Michelle D'costa 05:15
Yeah, no, no, I totally agree. And I think for me, I also the fact that books allow you to visualize the characters, and the scenes are way better. Because what happens in the movies, literally, it's out to you on a platter, right? It's like it's limited to the food served to you. But for me, I think it's like, when I'm reading a book, it's like being in the kitchen, seeing how the food is prepared. And then, you know, they're imagining it, I didn't like it. And I think for me, that our IQ set apart from the fact that there are many characters, there are many stories, what I like is the fact that when certain books managed to pick out those characters that are not really covered in in every other book, so being a Catholic, you know, I also had access to both Hindu mythology and Christian. So most recently, I came across this book by Jean style. And he's written a book called names of women. You don't I would highly recommend that to everybody. Because what I think what he's done is he's picked two women from the Bible, who have not been covered and working with represented in history, right? That's very common, because we have also interviewed items like Monopoly or era, Makati, and this is a this is a common pattern that we've seen notice with religious texts with also, you know, historical textbook, women are actually not given the sort of exposure that they deserve. But apart from representation, I think another thing that I really like in these books is when it makes me think differently. So for example, I really like the book business sutra, by data protype. Why? Because it actually mixes mythology, and uses lessons from mythology to teach sort of management and business. I really like them, because I cannot like when two genres mix with each other. So it's not just, you know, taking mythology as is, but then you use it probably in different formats. Yeah.
Tara Khandelwal 06:53
But do you think that like, sort of, it's overdone now, like, Okay, we've analyzed a little bit about, like, why books might be super interesting. And, you know, so like, authors are finding different characters to talk about these unheard stories are becoming popular stories of women. And you know, the wonderful part about this is there's so many characters, so there's enough for everybody to have fun and everybody to do well, also, right. And I can think of so many characters that I feel is have their own books, which I don't know if there's a book. So there's this one character called Shikhandi, who's a very interesting character, and I saw play on them. And it's a they're a transgender character, right. And I think that was one of the first sort of, I never, I never even knew about this character before I went to this play. And, you know, the way that this play sort of constructed a whole backstory of them was very interesting. And I just wonder, you know, how many more stories like that, and the play was sort of in a visual format? Right. So it was it was that was interesting.
Michelle D'costa 07:53
I think I'm gonna add to that, because it is actually a book and it's written by David McKnight. It's Shikhandi and other queer tales. So yeah, I do think that of course, I mean, that's just one but we need more of them.
Tara Khandelwal 08:05
I believe we're gonna run out there, maybe this gravy train is gonna end like, everything is like, but we'll see. We're talking about like movies versus books. Right. So let's address the
Michelle D'costa 08:16
elephant in the room. Right. Like, let's
Tara Khandelwal 08:18
address movies. Yeah, books. Yeah. Doing well. Yes. Also, there's the books that sort of, like, let's address also the problematic areas. So far, we've been saying that, you know, we love this. We love that there's enough for everybody. Right, but what is it really like is the Navy like you're a few questions. I have like the gravy train model runner. Is this over darkening? How many times we want to portray the same characters? Now the question I have is, if you can answer all of these and just say the other question I have is that the portrayal of even though we're taking all these unheard stories of women, the portrayal of women is always even in books and movies. So forget, books a little problematic, where they appeal to some sense of beauty, for example, yeah, and always set in those cultural contexts. Right. So so that has to do with retelling. And then there's sort of also the modernization of these worlds where we were you had with logical characters set in modern day settings. Yeah. Which is another topic. Yeah, but when it comes to movies, like for example is are the Polish movie? Yes. They didn't do well. Yeah.
Michelle D'costa 09:24
Why? Why am I exactly so I have a really interesting take on it. Because whatever I know is for whatever I've read in the media, I will just spoken to a few friends. And I have seen clips of the movie right? So what I honestly think is there is a very fine line between staying true to sort of historical texts that you have that is you know, the original sort of text and and we know that there have been many versions of it, and modernizing it right. So I was just imagining this like if there was a modern retake on honestly Jesus life, and we're like, Hey, dude, what's up? I don't know, which tools. So what from whatever I know is the fact that see the dialogues, but very colloquial, it was sort of used in a slang that we use nowadays. And also that kind of to use in everyday life, you know, with with, let's say, you know, your friends with people, you know, so I will say too casual, right? So what? So okay, so it is our TV is a little, you know, I would say disrespectful. So literally, there is a scene where I think humans, you know, tail is caught on fire. I'm not really sure exactly what I think the state is caught on fire. And then there's this person standing behind him, he says, oh, Jolina. So it is, is a lot of people found it offensive. And you know, I do understand why because he, I think that it's also with Hindu mythological creatures, we also have treated them, you know, like, gods, we review them, you know, we have grown up with their stories, you know, like, you know, worshipping them. So and what is what is interesting is because of the backlash, within a couple of days, the team actually changed the dialogue, if they've, you know, literally took all the feedback, changed the dialogue, and released the movie in the current version,
Tara Khandelwal 11:11
I think that's very interesting, I think like, you know, comparing it to brahmastra, which is, which is also has, which is an original story, but has roots, and takes a lot of tropes from mythology, I think what whatever I know are the polish is that it's the exact same story, you know, even the clothes, all of that, if you look at sort of like the imagery, it looks very sort of, like, what we expect that period to look like. And then you have this dialogue, which is super contrast. Yeah, you know, versus setting versus sort of like a modern retelling where you have the character, you know, actually like, very much in the social and cultural milieu of the times wearing the clothes that we wear, modern retailing, where you like, sort of like everything fits in Yeah, I think that's it, you know. So I think that that I think maybe sort of is interesting as well, ya know,
Michelle D'costa 12:03
and I wanted to add, since you mentioned brahmastra, a lot of people also I think, have realized that sometimes we get carried away with VFX in movies, right? Because he in a book, if you don't have a story, you have nothing, literally right. But in a movie, I think what happens with with with, especially these mythological stories is you know, you focus so much on VFX, that the story is that then falls flat, right? And the dialogues fall flat, right? Sort of. So I do think that it is a little trickier when it comes to movies to kind of do justice to everything, because you have so many people acting in it, right? Like just imagine like homage to party or data. But night, it's one person one mind, you literally it's your take on it. But I think in a movie, it's also ever it's also the actors. And you know what I find interesting, or you know, the actors who kind of portray, let's say, you know, somebody who's ROM in a movie, and this is what I'd heard along, like, you know, the Ramayana that came out in production. It was a first actor who acted like ROM, he was literally revered in life, like people used to fall at his feet and literally be like, oh, like they consider him as this really very important person. It's also interesting, because I feel it influences them. So it is different in a movie.
Tara Khandelwal 13:10
Yeah, I think it is different in movie like Margaret Atwood, and go to the Jericho Lit Fest. And Margaret Atwood have said that, you know, somebody asked all our books that we're going to want a fashion or something like the second one the question, the basic gist was that she said that, you know, in a movie, you need production, people up with budgets, you need all of these things, create the world. But in a book, you just need a writer and a pen. Yeah. And you can create, you know, anything that you want
Michelle D'costa 13:36
to add to that. There are so there is a movie upcoming movie that I recently saw. It's called supernovae. And it is based on supernova. And basically, we don't talk about characters who have commonly appeared in an odyssey. And there is of course, Sita, you know, Krishna, Jun, we have seen these characters time and again, and there's nothing wrong with that, right. But I do think that other characters also deserve some space. And it is super like a being a, you know, a feminine sort of icon, which we haven't seen much of our so there is a coming up movie. And what I find interesting is that see, while these books that are popular in mythology that we're seeing, right now, they are on in English, right? But these adaptations that we're seeing, they're also regional languages. So for example, Baahubali, since you're talking about success, and and what makes it successful, I think walkabout is a very good example of a mythological, let's say, a remake that has become successful. So if you think of it, why right, one of the things that work, and I actually read up a lot of this right, I do think that it's a mixture of factors or it's not just the not just the let's see the writing or not just the way effects or you know, all of that. See in this for example, some people speculate that it is the marketing that went behind it, apparently, two years before the release the promotion started happening, right. Yeah. And the second thing is, let's say you know, obviously, a very reputed director, you know, SSR moody. And the third thing is the fact that you know, I think for India, we We have been consuming Western stories for ages. Right? So there's Lord of the Rings as Harry Potter, there's Game of Thrones, these are things that we have been obviously, you know, being big fans of, but we didn't have sort of an Indian version. And hopefully what happened is it you did literally dump the movie in all regional languages. So everyone had their own version, I feel owning your own version or owning your own sort of, you know, mythology makes a very big difference.
Tara Khandelwal 15:25
No, I agree with that. Yeah, I like what you said about Super Naka. And I actually really enjoyed her story, because it was the story about how sort of she's our sister, right, and her nose gets cut off, right. And it also made me think about how typically in books we are seeing and movies, we see the the evil characters always look evil. Whatever the form, and the good characters always beautiful. Yeah, fun fact, in our Apple TV, if you watch the shows, if you see all of the villains have Android phones, and all of the all of the heroes have iPhones notice that it is zooming, but that is all about
Michelle D'costa 16:13
Tara Khandelwal 16:19
Representation definitely, you know, I think books have been we talked about books and even players because of budgeting issues, probably they have been able to take on and give voice to these lesser known characters. Yeah, but in a movie, you know, typically what happens in in these movies is they have a big budget movies. And because we affect all of these things, yeah. And they need to recoup their costs. So they I don't think, you know, for a director to make a movie on an unknown character might make sense. Maybe that is why, you know, they're going for the same stories again, oh, those big budget kind of movies versus sort of more character based.
Michelle D'costa 16:57
Something to add your data, which is interesting, because I mean, I recently watched a movie called Renfield. Okay, and when Phil character and I've not heard of him, and it was it was interesting is that he's literally drafted a sidekick. I didn't know the dragon, I even had a sidekick. Right. And I do think that that is a very good example. Because I do get your point where, you know, if you're investing a lot of money, if you literally want crowds to come and see your movie, and you're like, okay, but who is this guy? Right? I don't know. But I don't think that Renfield does it very well by because if you've never heard of that site, basically, you've never heard their story, but without them the main character wouldn't exist. Like it's kind of like, you know, these these unsung heroes around so what Redfield does is he literally gets victims. You know, for Dracula, he's literally sort of like, you know, he and Dracula, you know, manipulates gaslights, him, all of that stuff, whole movies based on that. So I do think that there is an opportunity, but maybe the marketing or the sort of communication that goes on in the public could be, you know, using the main character as,
Tara Khandelwal 17:59
I think another interesting application of modern because he spoke about retellings and taking characters and telling their stories. And now I want to speak a little bit about situating characters in modern settings, because I find that very interesting what you said like, like, imagine like this black, it's black and Alaska was Jesus Christ in a modern setting. And a book that comes from my mind is samsara my suction, which was basically sort of like it reminded me of Percy Jackson. And I really used to love Percy Jackson books, because it was basically, he took the foundation was Greek mythology. And Percy Jackson was the son of Poseidon, but he was a teenage boy growing up and like America, and all of those things. And then suddenly, he gets transported into this colony of other half demigods, half girls who have different powers. So like the modern day superheroes, but the foundation was sort of the Greek origin story. And I really like suction goddess book, because he kind of did the same thing where you have, you know, a group of kids and sort of the origin was a lot in Hindu mythology. Yeah, so that was very interesting. And in our modern retelling, I'm trying to think, what about movies? Have you seen like, modern retellings? I think there'll be a lot of look at what happened in the Polish. I think there'll be a lot of backlash. Suddenly, I took Sita and I dressed her up in like modern warfare,
Michelle D'costa 19:32
even like the beginning. It's really scary. I can't even imagine like, you can
Tara Khandelwal 19:36
definitely do more books, which is why I think these books are also proliferated. And very few like the only like film or movies that I remember watching about them and that I really liked was when I was a kid, we watched a cartoon version, like a like a Japanese cartoon, Ramayana. I was so well done, and I'm okay with story ever Maybe after school, even I used to come home. And I had grandmother Nina, my grandmother would watch the sermon series every day. And wow, what I remember of it was a fight series, the fighting. Okay, they're not that different astras you know, like fighting with each other. That time I was so blown away, I thought the VFX was amazing.
I don't know, like things have progressed from there to now with better technology. But
Tara Khandelwal 20:30
those shows, I think for special unto themselves. Maybe I don't know, your heart or something that they're doing that these movies cannot capture right now? Ah, I'm not seeing
Michelle D'costa 20:41
no. And what I find interesting is Japanese. I mean, I didn't know that. Right? It's really interesting to see how another culture sort of adapts another one, right? Because I also feel like when we come to our own mythologies are very protective. Like it is right, but I think I'm going to check this out right after this episode. I want to see all the Japanese envision this apart from all the movies and the films that we have covered. I do think that there is a lot of scope in accessing mythologies in India, Indian mythologies, but I would say not just Hindu mythology. So for example, you know, let's say there are northeast folklore mythology where there's a lot of magic, also record example, Assamese folklore, or, you know, for example, Buddhist or even Christian and Christian, I do understand that, you know, because it's a lot in the West. But what about Indian Christian? You know, I do think that there are these sorts of variations which are not covered. And I really hope to see that, because I think that there are writers out there who are trying different things. So for example, Anushka Chandra moody, right, so she's written this book Mohini, which actually imagines Vishnu is feminine form, right? So you do have different variations, even if you're actually exploring the same character. So I think for me, I want to see those changes in
Tara Khandelwal 21:55
it reminds me there's this bone painter, that I've forgotten his name. But basically, what he does is he paints sort of like biblical images. But like the main character, so Mary, and Jesus, they're all brown people.
Michelle D'costa 22:10
Very nice. To check it out. I'll
find the name and give it to you.
Michelle D'costa 22:14
Put it in the show notes.
Tara Khandelwal 22:16
It reminds me of like what we said about like adaptations and local retellings and how these stories are universal. I, myself personally love mythology and can't get enough of mythology. I love Hindu mythology. I've read all Chitra Angies books, obviously, I find it very interesting.
Michelle D'costa 22:35
And we also interviewed her,
Tara Khandelwal 22:38
and he also interviewed her and I understand why people can't get enough of it. Because for me, at least, it's sort of also is very reminiscent of my childhood. So say comfort food, in a way, you know, mythologies, that comfort food, which is a strange thing to say, but this is where I have grown up with, which is why I don't die or have these stories. And I think that's a case for a lot of sort of like Indians who may have grown up with these stories or, you know, read the Bible, I read a child children's version of the Bible. When I was a kid, I went to Catholic school. So for me even that, like, you know, those stories sort of take me back to my childhood. So they never, they never endanger interesting. And Greek mythology recently, According to Greek mythology, because there's a lot of retellings, a lot of a lot of new books come out of new books, and people have really sort of like, gone into that genre. Now, I read Stephen Fry's mythos, which is sort of like classical myths. So he just like told the stories as is. And even there, like I'm just always so amazed at like, the amount of stories that we are able to produce in civilization. And just to end like the end, the whole section is that I was reading Yuval, Noah Harare, is Sapiens the graphic novel version. And I read the print copy as well, graphic novel version is beautifully on. And in it, he was saying that basically, you know, as humans, we're storytellers. So even before you know, and we had an oral tradition, even before we started writing things down, we used to live in small bands, so small tribes of people. So it was not like organized how we had to study with like, you know, the religion even in terms of like our mythology, we have, like so many people interested in Greek and what he said basically was because we were organizing little little tribes, all over the world, a few few 1000 1000 people, each tribe had their own mythology, they weren't folklore that one culture. So at one point in the world, there would have been at least like, I don't know, countless million cultures. And that is changing so much right now because as your home out homogenizing globalizing, to think of a time when like, you know, you would have just gone to sort of a tribe like five days away from Have you and you would have been immersed in a completely different sort of like storytelling completely different, like just completely different realities. Prehistory is very, very interesting. Whereas whereas now, you know, we're doing the same stories and same canon panalytical. Next, all over and over again. So maybe it's the time for us to invent new modern mythologies. Anyone who's gonna do that? Yeah. Yeah, yes, yes,
Michelle D'costa 25:30
I definitely think he has his own characters, you know, probably probably 2020 30 years.
Could be our new mythology. You, ya know.
Michelle D'costa 25:40
If you think of if you've got a
problem with the author, and that's another conversation versus artists, but yes, yes,
Michelle D'costa 25:46
no, but I do think that AI can come up with more interesting mythological creatures. Why don't robots you know, half robots, half humans.
Tara Khandelwal 25:53
Okay, so we've covered so many things, different characters, books versus movies. What
is mythology? Is there too much? Or too little? All of it. And there's way more but the main question is,
Tara Khandelwal 26:06
what is the formula? What makes something successful? What makes something a flop? Why am easter bunnies book so successful? Why do we love America? Why did we really tank or the polish? Why did those TV serials of Rama Anna do so well? When all these movies are not doing? Well? What is the answer? Well, newsflash, I don't have an opinion. And I think one thing is that, you know, a lot of times like movie directors, we spoke about a few points. So to summarize, my opinion, is that lesser known characters, maybe movie, movie producers don't want to put the money behind it, because it's all about sort of like big budget movies. You know, especially with the advent of OTT to get people into the cinema, you need to do a lot of VFX. Yeah, a lot of money has been spent on VFX. Maybe not enough on script, sentiments of people, you know, if you do modernize certain elements, what, what would those sentiments be? Yeah, books, maybe because they don't have as much of a mass market appeal. They're also in English. So you're talking to, you know, the books that really well, English a different audience, you don't have the budgetary constraints. So you can play around more, you can go deeper, you can explore new facets, which you may not have been able to in movies today. And you also, you know, hurting the sentiments and all of those things, you can take those risks. So maybe that is a reason. But I don't know the formula, because then, as I mentioned, those TV shows, which is they did so well. You know, I'm sure there gonna be movies based on myths that are coming up in the future that we'll be doing well, yeah. One example of a modern adaptation of an a movie that's done that has done well is large, meaty, which had, which took inspiration a lot from them. Haha, that movie did really, really well. So there's no one formula zero? No, you know, one five, interesting. I actually had gone for this conference at the VA productions. Okay, yeah. And we had the chance to sort of hear from the CEO. And it was very, very interesting, because we just kept asking you like, what is the formula? How do you know like, as content creators, you want to know it? Yeah, the main things, we want to know what what works, we want to know, what is the formula? And even easily, you know, things are changing so fast right now, you know, in terms of like, not only technology not only the way we consume things in the media thinking like politics sentiments are changing so fast. It's such a fast changing, yeah, you really can't predict what you know, will go and what, so we can have our opinions. As I've said, I have my opinions and my own reasons, which I said earlier as well in the summary. But the answer is that everybody's sort of it is a state of flux. And I'm just looking forward to seeing what comes next and analyzing your war and understanding. Yeah,
Michelle D'costa 29:07
we'll see. Um, yeah, I think I think all the points you mentioned I totally agree I also do feel that there is a very fine line between you know, being creative with with a text that already exists out there that you've been seeing over the years and being tolerant about it right so I also what I think that we need to do more in the future to see more successful films is as you said, trial and error See, we often don't know what works and what doesn't work so I honestly think that if most storytellers are given more chances to explore right I'm just saying exploit can tank it can work, whatever but I think if we have more creative freedom and we can actually explore you know, very interesting sides to characters like I would what I mean is why always a serious take, why not make for example, why not take these characters and have very, you know, make them quirky, make them funny. I do think that like also, treating it in a light manner will make it also more interesting, but yeah, even I don't have an answer. I'm just hoping that there'll be more scope I would say, you know, more takes or let's see, you know, different tones using the same characters or different characters.
Tara Khandelwal 30:09
That's interesting. So more mythology. Were all for it. Yes, absolutely. So what do you think? Is there a formula via some mythological illustrations, books, movies, successful, not successful? Why are some retelling successful not successful? Let us know. Write to us on our social media. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode. And let us know what we should cover next. Yeah, thank you.