The graphic novel in India is a bastard child with many snarling parents, writes NANDINI RAMACHANDRAN
Could the graphic novel, portentous and pompous, be far off? In 1994, inspired by Narmada Valley activism, Delhi artist Orijit Sen wrote River of Stories, conventionally considered as India’s first graphic novel. It was around this time that Japanese manga began to make significant impact on the Indian scene. Manga, with its emphasis on long-running properties (series run by the artist/writer, not by the publisher), helmed by a core team, exposed the growing Indian industry to a new way of organising itself. Thus far, it had followed the Western ‘big house’ tradition, retaining visible properties with invisible authorship. Now, against the backdrop of Toms’s court case and the raging influence of manga, comic books became imprinted with their author’s personality. This was a shift in emphasis that had revolutionised the Western scene during the previous decade, and it marked the most important transition between ‘comic books’ and ‘graphic novels’ in the Subcontinent.
As with the Bengali novel during the 19th century, the Indian graphic novel is a product of both time and place. It is the product, most of all, of an ethos. Graphic novels are best appreciated by people with a pedantic eye for detail, significant patience and a need for self-identification. In India, the genre owes its existence to several cultures talking at each other, often from different vantages and starting points. It draws from a flood of aesthetic styles and literary formats.
Image: An extract from Orijit Sen’s comic. (Credit)