Vasantha Yogananthan’s project ‘A Myth of Two Souls’ is a contemporary retelling of the ancient Indian epic poem ‘The Ramayana’, that takes viewers on a journey through fictional and historical stories retracing the route from north to south India of the legendary prince Rama and his adventures.
Yogananthan’s series draw inspiration from the imagery associated with this myth and its pervasiveness in everyday Indian life. “The idea is to carefully play on the illusion and the ambiguity of the photograph. I shoot local people who live in these ancient, historical places. I never ask them to wear props—but since the country’s traditions are so strong, it can be hard for viewers to understand whether the work was taken yesterday or 100 years ago.”
‘A Myth of Two Souls’ will be published in seven photo books within 2016-2019, one per chapter of the tale. ‘Early Times’ is the 1st chapter. To date other two chapters are also available – the 2nd one ‘The Promise’ and the 3rd one ‘The Exile’. “Within each volume, though, everything will be different: the design, the typography, the materials used, the way the text and the images relate. I want to keep each chapter fresh and distinctive since the subjects are so different from one another.”
“My aim is to leave each person with their own possibilities of imagination when they flip through the pages of my book. I wanted to strike a balance between keeping the viewer engaged while leaving ample room for subjective interpretation. I was always intent on producing an object that could evoke something in the reader’s mind. This openness has its roots in the Ramayana itself. Unlike the Bible, there is no singular, definitive text of the poem. There are hundreds of Ramayanas that correspond to different regions, traditions, languages and more.”
The Ramayana is one of the largest ancient epics in world literature. First recorded by the Sanskrit poet Valmiki around 300 BC, ‘The Ramayana’ has many versions and has been constantly rewritten and reinterpreted through the ages, and continues to evolve today.