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Author Highlight: Vijay Sodhi Discusses his Book ‘The Rise of Rama’ and Stories from his Creative Life

It’s time for another author interview. Today, with us, we have Vijay Sodhi, he lives in London, England.

Kindly tell us a bit about you.

I’d always been a really fortunate person. I grew up in Nigeria, West Africa where I was exposed to people from every part of the world. I had a loving family and parents who raised me well. Instilling in me a confidence that I could achieve whatever I set my mind to and the importance of contributing to society.

When I was 15, I threw all that out of the window and went off the rails. You name it, I did it. For 3 years I was lost in the wilderness of not knowing who I was. One day I was pulled in front of my headmasters office. He couldn’t believe I had fallen so far. He spoke quietly and with just a few words, he manifested a force that I had never experienced before. It was as if he shone a mirror into a deep part of my soul, I was reminded who I had been and who I’d become. From that moment I pledged I’d be a better person. In fact I’d be the best version of myself I could. No matter how hard it would be. As a result I’ve faced heartbreak in failed businesses and been slapped down from many dreams, time and time again. But I refuse to allow those setbacks to quench the pursuit of doing some good in this world… even if it is only a little good.

After 28 years of trying a great many things, I joined Create London, a creative advertising agency that specializes in AV material for films. I joined as a runner (bottom of the food chain). I worked hard and said yes to every opportunity that came my way. If a task proved difficult I’d attack it with greater vigour. I worked my way up through every rung of the business and now am effectively number 2 in the company running the creative teams and work on projects such as Deadpool 2, War for the Planet of the Apes and various other Hollywood franchises.

What was the preparation and motivation behind writing this book?

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When it comes to heroes there are none more inspiring that Rama. I knew that I wanted to get his story out to the world, to share it with the West. I started reading Tulsidas’s Ramacharitmanas then found an electronic copy of Valmiki’s original Ramayana. From there it was a period of 6 years of writing and rewriting the story so that it retained the authenticity of the originals. But it also had to appeal to a wider audience. Those unfamiliar with the Indian epics. So the characters had to feel real, their emotional journey explored and felt. With the help of Mita Samani my sister in law who’s a huge fan of the story and knows more than I do about we’d check and recheck the story with scholars and saints. Each version would bring it closer to its authentic true north.

How do you balance yourself as a screenplay writer, associate director, and fiction writer? 

I’m most fortunate that my wife supports me in all aspects of work and extracurricular pursuits. We have 2 daughters and I do my best to be around for them too. So, a lot of time spent on writing is late at night or during my lunchbreaks. I’m also an avid basketball player so sometimes have to decide between playing and writing. Playing usually wins!

What is the first story you ever wrote as a screenplay writer?

I helped co-write a couple of plays for the Chinamaya Mission. That’s when I knew it was something I could do well.

What inspired you to choose working for Hollywood, not Bollywood?

Hollywood was the one that took me first. Growing up in Nigeria we never saw Indian films so I was exposed to Hollywood from a younger age. But as I grew older I started watching more Bollywood. Mard was the film that moved me the most. Amitabh Bachchan’s Raju was who I wanted to be when I was younger… and when he came to save his father… oh man that was awesome.

What movies or stories inspired your creative streak?

It’s all about the Indian epics. The steadfast characters who are attuned with the subtler world around them always fascinates me and inspires me to aspire to be like them. I love Indiana Jones and his rugged grit that keeps him going. The buddy comedy elements from awesome films like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the Lethal Weapon franchise… “I’m getting too old for this sh*!”. Then there’s the beauty of culture shown elegantly through films like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Finally Atticus Finch’s pursuit of doing what’s right in To Kill a Mockingbird. A blend of all the above is probably how I try to live my life… at least I imagine how I live my life.

Which is better Greek Mythology or Indian Mythology? Why?

Oh great question! Both have something to offer obviously. But in my humble opinion Greek mythology had better PR and Marketing departments that saw their stories sweep through the West. Indian mythology wins hands down because the levels in which one’s understanding about our own nature expands by reading these great epics is second to none.

Would you like to make a movie on The Ramayana Hollywood style?

Most definitely. In fact the whole screenplay was written for the big screen. After trying every which way to get it made failed, it couldn’t stay as a file on my computer. It had to get out to the world.

What experiences from your life influence your stories?

I think the empathy that I’ve experienced from some of the tougher parts of life means I look for that when writing characters. In the Ramayana I have to imagine what Rama was feeling when he didn’t shoot Tadaka immediately or what it was like for him to be disenfranchised from everything, but still have the tenacity to accept his destiny and leave for the forest. Where did that strength come from.. could it come from me too? Would I have the same well of forbearance that he had. I had to dig into my challenging experiences to try and feel a nugget of that.

Do you prepare an outline before you start writing?

Nope. I just write. Word to word, page to page. I suck at planning.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I used to fly for the Royal Airforce. Whilst I was at university I was a commissioned officer in the RAF.

Any future books/projects that you would like to discuss now?

I’m thinking of publishing the story of Abdul Kalam, Vikram Sarabhai and the ISRO scientists who took India into space despite huge obstacles.

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