Celebrated author Anand Neelakantan on his Baahubali prequel and writing for digital TV
There’s nothing new about book-to-film adaptations. Spinning iconic works of literature into movie gold is a widespread screenwriting epidemic. Case in point, a classic Malayalam novel is now being turned into a motion picture—with a whopping `1,000 crore budget! But, the reverse of this phenomenon, i.e film-to-book conversions rarely occurs. This is what excited Kochi-based author Anand Neelakantan when he got the nod to expand director SS Rajamouli’s epic universe in a Baahubali prequel novel titled The Rise of Sivagami.
Planned as a trilogy, this series is canon for the movie franchise which amassed over `600 crores worldwide. Therefore, its events are set within the kingdom of Mahishmati. While this pseudohistorical work of fiction steers clear of fantasy tropes like quests and magic, it mirrors contemporary socio-political scenarios. “The plot revolves around Sivagami, a girl who wants to destroy Mahishmathi in the beginning, but ends up becoming its Rajamatha, who eventually sacrifices herself to save the son of Amarendra Baahubali,” explains Anand, adding, “While core characters from the movie aren’t painted grey, I have created over 40 new characters in this title. This includes villains like Pattaraya and Jeemotha.”
The digital route
While you won’t find the answer to the overarching question ‘why Kattapa killed Baahubali’ in this 490-page novel, it definitely focusses on the slave warrior’s origins, servitude and actions. Anand, who made his literary debut in 2012 with the sleeper hit Asura: Tale of the Vanquished, is now writing for three digital TV shows for Discovery Channel and Amazon Prime. “One of my Amazon shows is going to be about one of Kerala’s greatest freedom fighters,“ concludes the 43-year-old.