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The woman behind the warrior

Special Correspondent

– Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

All smiles: Jaishree Mishra author of ‘Rani’ with writer Shashi Deshpande during the book-reading and interaction session in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Bangalore: The boom in the publishing industry may be opening more avenues to writers than ever before. But these are also times when “it is easy to offend people” and a potential controversy lurks at every turn of page.

Speaking at the launch of her book Rani, a historical novel on Laxmibai of Jhansi, author Jaishree Misra said that this fear led to self-censorship and she had caught herself doing it too. So there were only hints of an “unspoken attraction” between the queen and a British Major in the novel, she said at the launch of the book here on Wednesday. “I do not exactly want my effigy burnt,” she laughed.

Ms. Misra, employed with the British Board of Film Classification, said that this did not mean that she was a votary for “unqualified freedom of expression”. One could not, for instance, condone child pornography in the name of freedom. But “offence” was difficult to legislate or define, said Ms. Misra, in an interaction with media person Nupur Basu after the formal launch of the book.

The author of the Penguin publication made a brief power point presentation portraying her protagonist’s transformation from a bride of 14 by name Manikarnika to the courageous queen of Jhansi who fought the British for denying her adoptive son the right to rule.

She interspersed her presentation with reading of excerpts from the book which showed how she had blended “bare facts left by history”, myths surrounding the celebrated queen and her fictional imagination to examine the “textured image” of the “woman behind the warrior.”

The queen, Ms. Mishra said, “stole people’s imagination in different ways”. She was, he added, a ruler who was impeccably secular, a woman modern in her sensibility and an individual “more pacifist than we have allowed her to be”.

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