India release and reading of "Until the Lions" by Karthika Naïr
India release and reading of Until the Lions by Karthika Naïr in conversation with Jai Arjun Singh in the presence of French Ambassador François Richier.
New Delhi, 17 September 2015
Institut Français en Inde and the Alliance Française de Delhi today hosted versatile French-Indian poet Karthika Naïr for the launch of her remarkable book, Until the Lions (HarperCollins India), by H.E. Mr François Richier, Ambassador of France to India, at the Alliance auditorium.
The author’s compelling work, a powerful retelling of the Mahabharata in verse through the voices of many marginalized characters, was brought out in her lively conversation with noted journalist Jai Arjun Singh.
Until the Lions: One of South Asia’s best-loved epics, the Mahabharata has birthed perhaps as many versions as protagonists. As much a social and political treatise as a rousing saga of gods and heroes, it is also an interrogation of power and the fissures around concepts like justice and duty, which give moral sanction to violence and war. In Until the Lions, Karthika Naïr retells the epic through multiple voices. This experimental telling captures the Mahabharata through the lenses of nameless soldiers, outcast warriors and handmaidens as well as abducted princesses, tribal queens and a gender-shifting god. As peripheral figures and silent catalysts take centre stage, we get a glimpse of lives and stories that get buried beneath the edifices of god and nation, heroes and victory, of the price paid for the all too often interchangeable ideas of myth and history.
Karthika Naïr, a French-Indian poet-dance producer/curator, calls herself a portmanteau person, “like sofa-beds and motels". Naïr is the author of a collection of poems, Bearings (HarperCollins India, 2009), and The Honey Hunter/Le Tigre de Miel (Young Zubaan, India/Editions Hélium, France, 2013), a children’s book illustrated by Joëlle Jolivet. She was also the principal scriptwriter of DESH, choreographer Akram Khan’s award-winning dance production. In Karthika Naïr’s résumé as an enabler, one finds mention of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Damien Jalet, Käfig/Mourad Merzouki, two Olivier awards, Auditorium Musica per Roma, the Louvre, the Cité de la musique, the Centre national de la danse, the Villette, the Shaolin Temple in Henan, misadventures with ninja swords and pachyderms, among others, many of which make their way willy-nilly into her poetry.
Jai Arjun Singh is an author and journalist. He has written for Yahoo! India, Business Standard, The Hindu, The Man, Tehelka, Outlook Traveler, The Sunday Guardian and Hindustan Times, among other publications. His book about the making of the cult comedy film “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro” was published by HarperCollins India in 2010. He has also edited The Popcorn Essayists: What Movies Do to Writers, an anthology of original film-related essays for Tranquebar. He writes a popular blog called “Jabberwock”. He has contributed a wonderful story, "Milky Ways", in the book edited by Jaishree Mishra, Of Mothers and Others.