India is a land steeped in mythology and history, and few authors have been as successful in reimagining and retelling these timeless stories as Anand Neelakantan. With more than 13 books to his credit, Neelakantan has emerged as one of India's top-selling authors, celebrated for his unique perspective on mythological fiction. His literary journey is complemented by his roles as a columnist, screenwriter, public speaker, and even an actor.
Let's delve into the fascinating life and career of this multifaceted storyteller.
Anand Neelakantan hails from Thripoonithura, a quaint village on the outskirts of Cochin in Kerala. He is an alumnus of the Government Engineering College, Trichur in Kerala, where he laid the foundations for his technical background. For over two decades, from 1999 to 2022, he worked with the Indian Oil Corporation. During this time, he developed his talents as a cartoonist, contributing his wit and artistic abilities to Malayalam magazines.
Anand's life took a significant turn when he decided to leave his corporate career behind in pursuit of his passion for writing. This bold step led him to explore the world of storytelling and the power of reimagining age-old tales.
What sets Anand Neelakantan apart is his distinctive approach to mythology. He specialises in retelling stories from the perspective of the antagonists or supporting characters in well-known epics. This unconventional method has allowed him to breathe new life into ancient tales and present readers with a fresh and captivating narrative.
His debut novel, "Asura: Tale of the Vanquished," published in 2012, was a groundbreaking work that reimagined the Indian epic, Ramayana, from the perspective of Ravana. The book quickly gained popularity and became a surprise bestseller, finding its place on the top-seller charts within a week of its release.
Following the success of "Asura," Anand Neelakantan embarked on a literary journey that included a two-book series based on the Mahabharata, "Ajaya: Roll of the Dice" (2013) and "Ajaya: Rise of Kali" (2015), each narrated from the perspective of the Kauravas. His talent for storytelling was further amplified by his foray into the world of Baahubali, where he penned the official prequel series of novels for the blockbuster film franchise.
The "Baahubali: Before the Beginning" trilogy, which serves as a prequel to the films, includes "The Rise of Sivagami" (2017), "Chaturanga" (2020), and "Queen of Mahishmathi" (2020). These novels delve into the origins of the legendary characters and events of the Baahubali universe, offering fans deeper insights into the epic.
Anand Neelakantan's creative endeavours have not been limited to novels. In 2020, he made his debut in the realm of children's literature with "The Very Extremely Most Naughty Asura Tales for Kids." His storytelling prowess extends to the realm of audio, with audio dramas such as "Nala's Damayanti" and "Many Ramayanas, Many Lessons" captivating audiences across India.
Neelakantan's influence has also transcended literature into the world of Indian television. He has been instrumental in creating screenplays for popular Hindi television serials like "Siya Ke Ram" (Star Plus), "Mahabali Hanuman" (Sony TV), and "Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat" (Colors TV), among others. He also lent his acting talents to the Doordarshan Television show "Swaraj," where he played the role of the antagonist, Ettappa Naicker.
Anand Neelakantan's books have been translated into various Indian languages, including Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Assamese, and English, as well as Indonesian, making his works accessible to a diverse audience.
Neelakantan's literary contributions have been widely recognised and celebrated. "Asura: Tale of the Vanquished" was featured in Amazon Books' list of "100 books by Indian authors to read in a lifetime." The book has sold more than a million copies over the years. Furthermore, three of his books have been shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award during their respective years.
His literary talents and impactful storytelling have propelled him to a prominent position, not only as a writer but also as a public figure. Forbes India recognised him as one of the "100 top celebrities in India" in 2015 and 2017. His thought-provoking columns on current affairs in The New Indian Express, titled "Acute Angle," offer readers valuable insights into contemporary issues.
Anand Neelakantan's ability to blend history, mythology, and fiction has struck a chord with readers, elevating him to a prominent position in the literary world. His unique approach to storytelling has breathed new life into age-old myths and legends, and his prolific output continues to captivate audiences across the globe.