Graphic novelists delve into political history for their narratives and their works and attracting new readership, finds VIKHAR AHMED SAYEED
In graphic detail
India had a rich tradition of comics when the graphic novels came on the scene. Showing a much more serious engagement with their themes and moving beyond the restricting categories of “pulp” and “works for children”, graphic novelists have treated their subjects and their art with respect, which seemed to be lacking earlier. In a way, a certain professional approach to comics was adopted, not in the manner of fine-tuning the business end of the product but in treating the medium of comics with the necessary maturity and recognising its immense potential. This approach has worked now.
Orijit Sen’s River of Stories was a strong political and social indictment of the Narmada Dam project. It portrayed the lives of the tribal people living along the river banks. Sarnath Banerjee’s Corridor (2004) used the phrase “graphic novel” to describe itself, leading to it often being referred to as India’s first graphic novel. Corridor was vastly different from anything that had been published earlier in India. It targeted the smart, well-read reader with a meandering plot and kitschy observations of life in India’s large cities. Banerjee took this element further in his second novel, a thicker work called The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers (2007). Again, the plot was tangled in a morass of intelligent explorations of ideas and lives. In an interview to The Hindu Sarnath Banerjee called his reader post-literate, someone like himself – a film geek who grew up reading Bahadur comics and (Salman) Rushdie, (Jorge Luis) Borges and (Marcel) Proust.
Delhi Calm is the first graphic novel that engages so strongly with the modern history of India. By dealing with the Emergency period, many facets of which are still debated, (Vishwajyoti) Ghosh has bravely announced his presence as a serious comic writer.
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Image: From Vishwajyoti Ghosh’s graphic novel Delhi Calm. (Credit)