By Nilesh Mondal
It is no easy task to write an epic, but a job more difficult than that would be to attempt retelling one of the most complicated and incredible epics to ever have been written. Kavita Kane does exactly that, although to her credit, she already is an established name in terms of retelling Indian mythology. One can only assume it was this confidence that made her choose to venture into the retelling of the Ramayana, the exploits of the Prince of Ayodhya and his nemesis, the king of Lanka. A retelling of such an enormous, extensive and breath-taking epic can be a hit-or-miss situation, where on one end lies the risk of falling prey to clichés or getting lost in the convoluted plot of the original epic, and on the other, the befitting reward of satisfaction.
Kavita Kane tackles this opportunity head on, and fortunately ends up with something of high finesse and value.
Lanka’s Princess takes us through the life and times of Princess Meenakshi, the only daughter of Rishi Vishravas and sister to Ravan, Kumbhakaran and Vibhishan. Meenakshi, born in a family no stranger to war and dark secrets, is regularly neglected by her mother and brothers, and reprimanded by her father. Her chances at a happy life are cut short repeatedly, driving her into a corner where hatred and spite engulfs her soul. The way these circumstances mould her character and prepare her for her role in the battle between Ram and Ravan, are fascinating and suspenseful to watch unfold. The slow transformation of kind and compassionate Princess Meenakshi into the ruthless and vengeful Surpanakha is heart-breaking to follow, and imparts a well-founded depth to her character, which makes it inevitable for us to sympathise with this deeply troubled villainous protagonist.
Despite being a retelling, or rather reimagining of the mythological epic, this story handles other contemporary sensitive issues with profound understanding and space as well. This is a revelation for the readers, as we are made to realise that issues of feminism and prevalent gender discrimination, insecurity based on looks and skin colour, honour killing, taboo on sexuality, sexual violence, and many others were alive and well even in the times of Shree Ram. The writer however, tackles these issues subtly and with much tact, weaving them into the narrative and not making the whole story about one particular issue alone, or appearing outright judgemental at any point of the narration.