Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

06 Jan 2008, 10:31 a.m.


Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2008 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Last night I conversed with Leonard about the humor project that's been in the back of my mind for years: a comedic retelling of the Mahabharata akin to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Once Leonard drew my attention to the number of essential characters in the story, I realized that the Ramayana is much more manageable as a first attempt, not to mention more plausible in a purely textual form; I can't imagine doing my Mahabharata without sound or pictures. And I actually have ideas for reworking the four major characters, and the whole crazy situation with Rama's moms and dad. (Think Rama as Reginald Perrin, Sita as Cat and Girl's Girl, and Ravana as a cross among the Borg, Dr. Evil, and Indie Rock Pete. And Hanuman as T-Rex played by Michael Cera.) I should probably bang ideas around with Shweta and my sister.

Ashok Banker also did his Ramayana first, with amazingly intricate and extensive worldbuilding and a serious cast of fully realized characters. I bought most of that series, specially ordering the third and fourth books from abroad, because I loved the concept, but I couldn't get past book two and ended up selling even the unread books to the Strand. I ragged on the first few books of his Ramayana retelling in an MC Masala column in 2005, and he found out about it and wrote me an excellent note thanking me for reviewing it! Solid, and exemplary. His purple prose weighed down the story, I'd said, and Rama, Sita, the evil queen, etc. were completely good or bad with no shading. And, now that I think about it, not nearly enough humor.

Now he's working on the Big M. The Mahabharata just naturally has more complex characters and motivations -- Banker chose to stay true to Rama's perfect heroism and sacrificed conflict. But I probably could have dealt with that, if I could stand the voice. The wordy overdescriptive style sadly continues in this excerpt from his upcoming Mahabharata treatment. But at least there's a hint there that the line between good and evil runs down the center of every human heart (to borrow the line from Solzhenitsyn).

I see from other short fics Banker has posted on his site (I enjoyed a fantasy Western with a six-handed Indian woman and an expat pilgrimage story) that he can do vigorous and concise. I guess the grandeur of the epics turns him grandiose, which is a shame. He has a likable voice and he groks Creative Commons, so I am rooting for him personally, but I'll have to turn elsewhere, possibly inward, for mashups of my epics.

Which reminds me. Krishna as a talkative taxi driver who drives around in a chariot/cab/ice cream truck. What do you think?


08 Jan 2008, 18:51 p.m.

Have you read "Once Upon an Elephant" by Ashok Mathur? It's short, wacky, recommended: