Here are scans of an article titled "The evolution of the Indian Graphic Novel" that came on The Sunday Guardian, Aug 15th
Below, is the complete unabridged version of my interview, just for you guys
There has been a sudden spurt in the field of graphic novels in India. When did it start and why do you think it is gaining momentum?
The so called sudden spurt in the field of graphic novels was triggered by the coming of European and American graphic novels. Our readers began to realize the potential of this medium and started becoming aware of the limitless possibilities in storytelling that it offered. It became all the more evident when block buster movies were made out of best selling western graphic novels like Sin City, 300, and V for Vendetta. All of a sudden Graphic novels were more than just comic books for children. They became an efficient medium of storytelling that was way less expensive to make than movies and with the possibility of being way more expressive than novels (if well made). With the sudden increase in readership, came the increasing demand in the market for newer, original, and more importantly Indian stuff. Now more and more artists, writers and publishers are entering the Indian graphic novel industry. What we are witnessing could be the advent of a whole new era of storytelling
How did the whole genre of graphic novels evolve in India? How has the evolution come about?
Though the term 'graphic novels' is recent, India has had a long tradition of comic readership. It had started as early as 1947, with Chandamama publishing its comic magazines. I think the adaptations of the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata in comic-book format in the 60s may have been our first attempt at what we call graphic novels now. After that came a comic-book era during which many western comics (like Phantom and Mandrake) were made available in India through publishers like Indrajaal comics. Soon afterwards more western comics like Archie, Tintin, Asterix, etc started gaining popularity in our country along with our very own Amar Chitra Katha. Though none of these could exactly be called graphic novels, they still helped our readers get acquainted to the medium of western sequential art. Graphic novels are nothing but an extension of this art form. It tells bigger, more serious stories to a bigger, more serious crowd. Not that children and adolescents don't enjoy them, but there are also graphic novels that target just the mature reader
Why do you think there has been a lack in this specific art form?
Frankly, I don't think there has been a lack per se in the art form. It is a multi-billion dollar industry around the globe, be it the western graphic novels or the Japanese Manga, churning out thousands of graphic novels every year. Its just that we have had so very few original Graphic novels being created in our country that our readers still rely majorly on the European, American and Japanese industries to keep them entertained. But there are new publishers coming up in India exclusively for graphic novels and there are plenty of original graphic novel scripts being written. Also we have a lot of talented artists in our country. So I believe that in the next five years the scene is going to change
Do you think that graphic novel is a highly underrated medium in our country and is more about superheroes and mythology?
It has been mostly about superheroes and mythology. Not that I am against these genres, and yes, I do enjoy them as long as the stories are well-crafted and told. But supehero and mythology comics are being done to death in our country through repetitions and shallow, clichéd plots. And most of these have been targeting the pre-teen and early teen readers. Its about time we moved a level up and looked beyond the niche market that these comics have created. By sticking to just this target age-group, we are forcing the more mature, intelligent reader to look up solely to the Western and far-Eastern markets for a satisfying read. There however has been many exceptions too that deserve to be acknowledged here, like Amruta Patil's dark and intense graphic novel Kari, and Tejas Modak's humorous take on the Noir genre with his graphic novel Agent Anonymous, to cite a few examples. Yes, the graphic novel is a highly underrated medium in our country and its full-potential is yet to be realized.
Also, many of the graphic novels existing in the market today portray stories that are gory in nature with a lot of bloodshed, rape. Why?
Well, there are two categories when it comes to this. There are the graphic novels that have blood and gore as part of the harsh realities of life. These probably require it for the story to be more convincing. Then there are the ones that have these just because they sell. I am not a big fan of the latter, but I am not denying the fact that sometimes the shock-value does help. Not only in sales, but also in delivering the impact. What I personally feel is that the impact is all the more stronger when it is kept subtle and toned down instead of going for blatant in-your-face acts of sex and violence.
Where would you place the Indian graphic novel scene on a global scale? Why
Even though a lot of comics and graphic novels are being sold in India the volume of original graphic novels being produced here is very low. The number of international releases that we have each year is almost as low as being non existent for us to be of any significance on a global scale right now. The graphic novel industry of our country is presently in the same state as Bollywood was in the global scene 50-55 years back (during the early years of what was known as the Golden age of Indian cinema), with a reasonable number of movies being made to be viewed only within the country. But though we seem to be starting off late, we have always had immense underutilized potential waiting to be unleashed. Story telling through art has been part of our heritage and it dates back to the 5th century AD mural paintings in the Ajanta caves and beyond. One way in which our contributions in the global graphic novel industry can stand out as unique is by introducing the aspects of our traditional art forms in sequential art. Of course, it goes without saying that it can happen only if the graphic novel communicates efficiently and has a gripping story to tell. We should also be able to tell stories that are unique to us, but still can be related to by readers from the other parts of the world. That way we will be able to provide the international reader with a whole new well-cherished reading experience, and in the long run make our mark in the international market
Is there a mature and understanding audience for graphic novels in India?
International best selling graphic novels have always had a substantial readership in India. So I would like to believe that we do have a mature and understanding audience for graphic novels. But frankly, that is one of those things that is yet to be found out. I do get a lot of positive feedback from the readers of my comic strip (Marcus and more) in the New Indian Express and that gives me hope that my graphic novels too would be loved as much
In what ways are graphic novels different from comics?
The sheer volume of content is what separates graphic novels from comic-books. Graphic novels are what can be called the movie-equivalent of sequential art. Of course the challenges are many since unlike a movie, a graphic novel does not have anything that is not visual. But a picture speaks a thousand words. efficient paneling can control the pace of the narration, proper lettering and onomatopoeia makes it audible, and efficient use of colors brings out the right mood
Who is your favourite graphic novelist(s)?
Neil Gaiman has always been a favourite graphic novel-writer. Will Eisner has been a huge inspiration. If it hadnt been for him, the medium wouldnt have been born in the first place. I totally admire the works of Juan Díaz Canales (writer) and Juanjo Guarnido (artist) in their noir series Blacksad. Anthropomorphized characters have never been more expressive. Among the more recent graphic novelists, I'm addicted to the works of the twins Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
What are your current projects and from where do you draw inspiration while working on these?
Besides an ongoing fortnightly comic strip, I am also working with my team mates Roshan and Sinu on the first graphic novel from the Libera Artisti. It is called Silent symphonies and it is an anthology of four stories, two of which are by me. What makes this graphic novel unique is that the stories are purely visually narrated without a single word being used. This is a huge challenge as far as the medium is concerned, since usually a major part of the storytelling in graphic novels happens through dialogues and narrations. Since neither of these will be used in this book we will need to explore all the graphical aspects of the medium to the maximum extend possible for efficient storytelling.
Inspirations are usually drawn from life itself and the things that happen in and around it. As storytellers we are constantly on the look out for new stories and sometimes its actually the trivialities of life that triggers a whole chain of thoughts. It might be a person we know in real life or certain traits of his/hers that give birth to a character