When national award-winning documentary filmmaker Trisha Das, sister of stand-up comedian Vir Das, visited Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh, she was overwhelmed by the cultural diversity of the region, and the level of caste and gender-based stratification that existed there. “I wanted to shoot in the homes of some of the ‘lower’ caste residents. For that, I needed the zamindar’s permission. As a woman, I could not even talk to him face-to-face, and I had to talk to him through my cameraman.”
Such experiences and more have been condensed into her latest work of fiction, Kama’s Last Sutra, which takes the form of historical fiction to tackle the issues of gender and social imbalances, communalism and superstitions that hold sway to this day. In her narration, tinged with humour, archaeologist Tara Singh, who, while conducting excavations in Khajuraho, travels back in time to visit Vidyadhara, the Chandela king who built the Kandariya Mahadeva temple. Kama’s Last Sutra is erotic in parts, unabashedly so.
Why this genre of historical fantasy fiction? “There is no Indian equivalent of fantasy series like Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. I thought this would be a good genre to address social issues,” says Das. Just how historically accurate are the narrations? According to her, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni was resurrected from history. “Also true are details about forts, weaponry, clothing, folklore, feudal structures, religious practices and traditional customs as well as most facts about Kalinjar fort and the Neelkanth temple.”
“It is also a good time to be a woman in India,” says Das. “It is time we take control of the narrative, and speak up about the issues that matter the most to us now―be it rapes, sexual harassment and more.”
KAMA’S LAST SUTRA
Author: Trisha Das
Publisher: HarperCollins India