The Park’s New Festival, edition IX in association with Prakriti Foundation, hosted the launch of the book ‘Until the Lions’ by Karthika Nair at the Humanities auditorium in University of Hyderabad (UoH) on September 28.
Karthika Nair, a poet and dance producer/curator, was born in Kerala and lives in Paris. She is the author of Bearings (2009), a poetry collection and The Honey Hunter/Le Tigre de Miel (2013), a children’s book illustrated by Joelle Jolivet. She was also the principal scriptwriter of DESH, choreographer Akram Khan’s award-winning dance production. She is the recipient of two Olivier awards.
In Until the Lions, Karthika Nair retells the Mahabharata through multiple voices. Her poems capture the epic through the lenses of nameless soldiers, outcast warriors and handmaidens but also abducted princesses, tribal queens and a gender-shifting god. As peripheral figures and silent catalysts take centre stage, the book gives a glimpse of lives and stories buried beneath the edifices of God, nation, heroes and victory.
Sridala Swamy, a poet herself, engaged in a conversation with Karthika Nair and spoke in detail about her latest literary work that she had worked on for five years. She enquired about the author’s back-story, like the illustrious back stories of the characters in the book, for choosing to tell this story. Karthika Nair felt that Mahabharata loomed large on her subconscious as she had been hearing about it from a very young age. She had initially selected 18 voices by equating it to 18 days of war but later decided to include the voice of Satyavathi as the narrative. Choosing the voices and structuring them was a daunting task for her, given the nature of the book and the epic scale of Mahabharata. Making the 19 voices distinct and true to their moral, emotional fibre kept her preoccupied. She added that her collaboration with Akram Khan in 2011 was a great training ground for her and helped bring her own characters alive.
Karthika Nair enlightened the audience at various instances with readings from the book.
-Shaima Mansoor, Department of Communication