The Info List - Ashok Banker

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ASHOK KUMAR BANKER (born 7 February 1964 in Mumbai
, India
) is an author and screenwriter. His writing spans crime thrillers, essays, literary criticism, fiction and mythological retellings. The author of several well-received novels including a trilogy billed as "India's first crime novels in English", he became widely known for his retellings of Indian mythological epics, starting with the internationally acclaimed and best-selling eight-volume Ramayana Series, which has been credited with the resurgence of mythology in Indian publishing. The New York Times credited him with making mythology the most successful category in Indian publishing, describing his work as being "better written than many books in the genre that have followed – introduced the Ramayana to a new generation of readers." His books have sold over 2 million copies and have been published in 16 languages in 58 countries. His Epic India Library is an attempt to retell all the myths, legends and itihasa of the Indian sub-continent in one massive story cycle comprising over 70 volumes, "an epic library of India". He is frequently nominated and shortlisted as one of India's top thinkers and celebrities. The upcoming two-film adaptation of his Mahabharata is expected to be the biggest Indian film production to date.


* 1 Early life

* 1.1 Childhood

* 2 Career

* 2.1 Journalism * 2.2 Literary contribution * 2.3 Crime fiction * 2.4 Science fiction, fantasy and horror * 2.5 Autobiographical work * 2.6 Mythological retellings * 2.7 Television work * 2.8 Feature films * 2.9 eBook success

* 3 Select bibliography

* 3.1 Poetry * 3.2 Literary Fiction * 3.3 Young Adult Novels * 3.4 Ramayana Series * 3.5 Collected as omnibus volumes * 3.6 Krishna Coriolis Series * 3.7 Mahabharata Series * 3.8 Epic Love Stories * 3.9 Kali Rising * 3.10 Crime Fiction * 3.11 Itihasa Series * 3.12 Future history * 3.13 Non-fiction books * 3.14 Other works

* 4 References * 5 External links



It was Banker's British grandmother, May Agnes Smith, who effectively raised and supported him. May Agnes Smith had been born and raised in Ceylon
. When that country achieved independence, all other members of her family chose to claim British citizenship and either return to the UK or migrate to other countries. May Agnes was the only member of her family to move to India. She married Mr. D'Souza, an Indian Christian from Goa
, which was in those days a Portuguese territory. The couple settled in the neighbourhood of Byculla
in Mumbai
, or Bombay as it was then known.

It was in the same house in Byculla
that Banker grew up, under the care of his grandmother. He has mentioned in interviews how she not only encouraged him to write but even financed the publication of his first book, a collection of his poetry titled Ashes in the Dust of Time, which he self-published at age 15, and which was selected to represent Young India
at the World Book Fair in Paris
. He also found early support from his school Principal, Miss Sophy Kelly, a prominent patron of the arts and leader of the Bene Israel
Bene Israel
community in Mumbai
at the time. Among his first literary efforts was an ambitious play based on the Book of Revelations of St. John from the Bible, produced by Kelly and performed by Banker and other students at their high school auditorium, Hill Grange. The school itself was the alma mater of many prominent personalities.

Subsequently, Banker has said in numerous interviews that when the time came for him to choose which religion he wished to belong to, he chose simply "to stay human".

Banker has often commented publicly about abuse he faced growing up on account of his lack of religion, caste or racial identity. Describing himself as a 'post-racial post-religious' Indian. His refusal to identify himself as belonging to a caste, religion or community caused many conflicts during his childhood, since it was at odds with India's traditional caste-based social structure. This culture of segregation and systematic bias turned him away from his estranged biological father's religion Hinduism
, and Banker grew up with little or no exposure to Hindu
culture, religion or literature. He identified himself with other minorities and his closest friends were Muslims, Parsis, Christians and Jews. He took Farsi
and Urdu lessons for a time and even won a college-level prize for Urdu-Translation in collaboration with a Pakistani friend. The son of an Iranian dissident fleeing the Shah regime stayed briefly with Banker's grandmother in Byculla, exposing Banker further to radical Islamic thought and culture and making him even more determined to stay iconoclastic in his religious outlook. Among his close friends were the son and daughter of the Rabbi of the Magen David Synagogue in Byculla, who also studied at the same high school.



Ashok Banker
Ashok Banker
worked as a successful freelance journalist and columnist for several years, breaking front-page news for publications such as The Times of India
, Mumbai, and cover stories for Outlook magazine , New Delhi. He was earlier also known as a prolific reviewer and commentator on contemporary Indian literature , and as a candid essayist with a particular focus on media hypocrisy in India, and the western racial bias against South Asian writers. He was a prolific literary critic and reviewer, known for his candour and bluntness in reviewing books by Indian authors. His views often veered from the outright derogatory to effusive praise.


Banker is a contemporary Indian novelist often counted among the significant literary names in post-colonial Indian literature His work is the focus of several academic studies for its cross-cultural themes and realistic portrayals of Indian urban issues. He is one of few contemporary Indian authors writing in English to be included in prestigious anthologies such as The Vintage Book of Modern Indian Literature and The Picador Book of Modern Indian Literature. His work has been the subject of dissertations, course study material, and is frequently included in the syllabi or reading lists of management institutes and studies of modern Indian English Literature. He is credited as having introduced Indian mythology to a new generation of readers with works that have been described as "better written than many books in the genre that followed", "well paced" and "breathes humanity into characters that most Indians consider deities. This brings freshness to the old stories and makes their intricate, discursive narratives more accessible to an audience that has been bred on the linear plots of Hollywood and Bollywood movies." His novel Vertigo is considered a "remarkable" fictional representation of the new Bombay; it is "an autobiographical novel about a young man in advertising who lives with his disturbed Christian mother". First published in 1992, Vertigo was highly praised by critics and readers alike at the time, including the late Dom Moraes. Although it has often appeared on readers' choice polls as a favourite contemporary fiction on post-liberalisation India, it is one of Banker's lesser known works.


Banker (far right) at a panel discussion in November 2012

Banker has published in several genres, ranging from contemporary fiction about urban life in India
to multi-volume mythological epics , as well as cross-genre works. Three of his early novels to be published were crime thrillers , claimed to be the first written by an Indian novelist in English. They gained him widespread attention and still continue to be regarded with critical approval. Most recently, literary critic Zac O'Yeah wrote: "Slimmer and much more hard-boiled are three striking crime novels written by Ashok Banker
Ashok Banker
many years ago. I still remember reading The Iron Bra, a blood-soaked story of a female investigator, Sheila Ray, whose finger rests lightly on the trigger as she defends her family’s reputation and takes on gangsters in a particularly unforgettable shootout. The growing city’s construction sites were a crucial component in the tight plot. Tragically, my own copy is long lost and second-hand copies cost $129 (approx. Rs6,000) plus shipping on an online bookshop, so it looks like it’s high time to have this gem of a crime novel reissued in an omnibus edition along with Banker’s Ten Dead Admen and Murder it was optioned in 2009 by Excel Entertainment to be produced and directed by Farhan Akhtar. His original graphic novel script titled Becoming Kali was purchased by DC Comics in 2010. The film rights were purchased for development by Warner Bros in 2011. In June 2013, Disney UTV purchased the rights to Banker's ongoing Mahabharata Series, with Banker commissioned to adapt the epic himself in an original screenplay intended for a big-budget live-action feature film adaptation in Hindi and Sanskrit, to be split into two parts for release in 2016/17. Disney India
CEO Siddhartha Roy Kapur is attached to produce and Director Abhishek Kapoor is signed to direct the film. Banker has also confirmed that he has been commissioned by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra to write the script for his forthcoming film, tentatively titled Raja. At the launch of Banker's historical fiction novel Ten Kings in Chennai, filmstar Kamalhaasan was asked if he was adapting the book to the screen, but Kamalhaasan denied the rumour on camera and in subsequent interviews. l


One of the first Indian authors to embrace changing technology, Banker began sharing his work online with readers as early as 1995, when public internet access began in India. He has been credited as the author of the first ebook by an Indian author, the first online serial novel, the first multimedia novel, and numerous other early experiments with digital publishing. In response to increasing demand from his readers and the considerable delay by Indian publishers in embracing electronic publishing technologies, Banker began publishing and distributing ebook editions of his own work through his website and later through a dedicated ebookstore. The result was India's first ebook best-sellers and first successful independent ebookstore. As of May 2014, AKB eBOOKS had sold over 180,000 ebooks accounting for about 9% of Banker's total book sales. As a result, Banker has said he intends to use the knowledge he has acquired in the course of researching and writing his epic mythology series into creating "informative, interactive books for the iPad".



* Ashes in the Dust of Time (1979)


* Vertigo (1993) * Byculla
Boy (1994)


* Amazing Adventure at Chotta Sheher (1992) * The Missing Parents Mystery (1994) * Vortal Shockwave (2013)


* Prince of Ayodhya (2003) * Siege of Mithila (2003) * Demons of Chitrakut (2004) * Armies of Hanuman (2005) * Bridge of Rama (2005) * King of Ayodhya (2006) * Vengeance of Ravana (2011) * Sons of Sita (2012) * Ramayana Series: The Complete Omnibus (2013) (Ebook only) * "Prince of Ayodhya: Volume I, The Graphic Novel" (2010)


* Prince of Dharma (2007) * Prince in Exile (2007) * Prince at War (2007) * King of Dharma (2011) (Ebook only)


* Slayer of Kamsa (2010) * Dance of Govinda (2011) * Flute of Vrindavan (2011) * Lord of Mathura (2011) * Rage of Jarasandha (2011) * Fortress of Dwarka (2012) * Rider of Garuda (2013) * Lord of Vaikunta (Expected 2015) * Krishna Coriolis: Complete Omnibus (Expected 2015)


Prequel Series

* The Forest of Stories (2011) * The Seeds of War (2011) * The Children of Midnight (2015)

Mahabharata Series

* The Darkness Before Dawn (2016) * The Eclipse of Dharma (Expected 2017) * The Sons of Misrule (Expected 2017)


* Ganga and Shantanu (2013) * Satyavati and Shantanu (2013) * Shakuntala and Dushyanta (2013) * Amba and Bhishma (2013) * Devayani, Sharmistha and Yayati (2012)


* Blood Red Sari (2012) * Burnt Saffron Sky (2012) (Ebook only) * Rust Black Heart (2013) (Ebook only) * Silver Acid Rain (2013) (Ebook only)


* The Iron Bra (1993) * Murder ">

* ^ Ashok Banker
Ashok Banker
on real art, honest emotions Times of India, 6 April 2012 * ^ Mystery of the missing jasoos Times of India
16 May 2010 * ^ Does Indian Mythology
Dominate Contemporary Fiction in India? * ^ On the Comeback Trail, The Pioneer, March 23, 2013 * ^ The Forest of Stories The Telegraph, 15 March 2012 * ^ An epic undertaking The Hindu, 21 March 2012 * ^ Archived 3 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine
Wayback Machine
. * ^ India
Celebrity 100 Nominees List * ^ http://www.deccanchronicle.com/140324/entertainment-bollywood/article/disney-india-bring-mahabharata-life-celluloid * ^ Bollywood, the worst example of storytelling DNA, 22 April 2012 * ^ Writing epics was healthier and more sustainable Bangalore Mirror, 22 April 2012 * ^ "I have no caste, I am an Indian.", Interview in Hindustan Times, May 27, 2012 Archived 28 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine
Wayback Machine
. * ^ epic rediscovery, Feature article in The Telegraph, April 14, 2013 * ^ epic rediscovery * ^ Star\'s Final AssaultAshok K. Banker Outlook, 15 March 1999 * ^ "View from the top : Colours of fiction", Banker's views about bias: article at the Times of India
website. * ^ Derogatory book reviews: article from the New Statesman website. * ^ The Great Indian Novelists on English Literature/Naval Kishore Singh. Delhi, Manglam Pub., 2008, viii, 268 p., ISBN 978-81-906650-2-5

* ^ Sistla, Lakshmi, Towards Integration: Childhood in Ashok Banker\'s Byculla
Boy (6 December 2008). The Icfai University Journal of English Studies, Vol. III, No. 4, pp. 29–35, December 2008. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1312203] * ^ "The Vintage Book of Modern Indian Literature": Random House Academic Resources website. * ^ "The Picador Book of Modern Indian Literature" Archived 21 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine
Wayback Machine
.: Pan Macmillan website. * ^ Does Indian Mythology
Dominate Contemporary Fiction in India? * ^ Flights of the imagination * ^ "Murder in the city" Article on Indian Crime Fiction at Livemint, Wall Street Journal India
website. * ^ "Blood Red Sari by Ashok Banker
Ashok Banker
book review" * ^ http://www.flipkart.com/gods-war-01/p/itmczyrphpzyhpkp * ^ http://books.theguardian.com/quiz/questions/0,,2147971,00.html * ^ My mother and I: An intensely personal note by Ashok Banker
Ashok Banker
on his film project Beautiful Ugly (Expanded and Revised by Ashok on 22 June) Archived 7 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
Wayback Machine
. * ^ "Internet Book List": Internet Book List website. * ^ An epic undertaking/The Hindu * ^ http://www.bestmediainfo.com/2014/10/colors-announces-magnum-opus-chakravartin-ashoka-samrat/ bestmediainfo.com 10 September 2014 * ^ http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Entertainment/Hindi/Bollywood/News-Interviews/Now-the-entire-Mahabharata-on-the-big-screen/articleshow/32548375.cms * ^ http://www.deccanchronicle.com/140324/entertainment-bollywood/article/disney-india-bring-mahabharata-life-celluloid * ^ http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/bollywood/news-interviews/This-will-be-my-Lord-of-the-Rings-Abhishek-Kapoor/articleshow/32585485.cms * ^ http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/Narrating-a-Travelling-Tale/2014/11/17/article2526312.ece New Indian Express, 17 November 2014 * ^ Your favorite books, on the digital highway – Business of Life – livemint.com * ^ * ^ Epics reloaded in a modern avatar/The Asian Age * ^ Penguin Books website website * ^ A Mouthful of Sky (1995 TV series): IMDB.com website, credited as India's first Television Series in English.

* Sunday, article in issue of January 1993. * Society Magazine, cover story titled " Byculla
Boy", August 1993. * The Week, cover story, August 1993.