Tag Archives: Mahabharata

What’s Your Fantasy?

 

Right from childhood days, most of us have grown up with stories of prince and princess’, of kings and queens, of fairies and witches and of God and his magical ways – of casting spells, swishing wand, riding dragons and brooms, and zipping-n-zapping people in to animals and vice versa. Most of us grew up reading (or listening to) stories from the desk of Enid BlytonL. Frank BaumTerry PratchettRick Riordan and the like.
The mystical land was left open for us (readers and listeners) to explore and at times, create.  
We were free to mold places, people, settings, ideologies, laws. We could defy any notion; make our own Universe; have a tryst with fate as per will; and for all that you know- be a hero…correction- Super Hero!

Writing Fantasy –Fiction gives the author the levy to create just about anything anyhow anywhere.
I don’t know if many remember Margaret Bhatty – Indian writer of adventure, fantasy and science fiction, short stories, and picture books. She penned quite a few fantasy-fiction tomes besides one science fiction and some adventure fiction novels. (Kingdom of No Return, Himalayan Adventure, The Mystery of the Zamorin’s Treasure, The Secret of Sickle-Moon Mountain, Travelling Companions, The Never- Never Bird, The Evil Empire, etc.)

But of late, why is it that we have to bank on the wizards and fun of Pottermania, the mystics of the Fellowship of the Ring (Lord of the Rings), survive Twilights and save the world with just the X-Men?

It’s not surprising that Indian readers who enjoy fantasy fiction opt more for established Western authors than their Indian counterparts.

Let’s not forget, this is the land of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. This is the land with a host of mythological and super powerful fictional characters of the fantasy world. Then why are there only a handful of Indian fantasy writers who are able to rekindle the lost interest?
Like:

Samit Basu who has authored five novels: The Simoqin PropheciesThe Manticore’s Secret and The Unwaba Revelations, the three parts of The GameWorld Trilogy; a fantasy trilogy – Terror on the Titanic; and Turbulence, a superhero novel set in India, Pakistan and England.

Sonja Chandrachud– our ‘Desi Rowling’.

Sonja deftly brews up fantastical tales filled with magic, mayhem & mischief. The Potion of Eternity & Pearls of Wisdom are the first two novels in the much loved Hilarious Hauntings Adventures five book series. Her next YA series – DOA Detective Files takes you deep into ancient historical times where cryptic curses, mysterious murders.

Thankfully, mythology is another accessible avenue for plotting fantasy-fiction, since it establishes an immediate connect. Religious/Spiritual fiction is coming of age.

Mythological characters like Rama, Ravana, Arjuna, Jesus Christ, Lord Shiva, Ganesha and others from the great epics are becoming fodder for contemporary Indo-Anglian literature. Most writers find this a new way of looking at Indian culture to draw young readers.
Also, Indian spirituality and the concepts of reincarnation and past life regression, karma, etc. give it a new literary theme.

Shashi Tharoor’s “The Great Indian Novel” is a contemporary re-telling of the epic Mahabharata in the context of Indian polity.

Amish Tripathi’s Immortals of Meluha (his first book in the series of the Shiva Trilogy), followed by The Secret Of The Nagas created waves in the world of Indian Fantasy Fiction writing.

The book shows Shiva as a tribal towards the beginning of the novel. He is the chief of a tribe residing by the side of Mansarovar Lake at the foot of mount Kailash in Tibet. But as the story progresses with the invasions and battles, Shiva emerges a hero. One of the highly acclaimed books of recent times, this one is a MUST read.

Ashwin Sanghi’s “The Rozabal Line” brings Gods back from their heavenly abodes to play action games on earth. And his other offering “Chanakya’s Chant” draws a parallel to the practices implemented during the reign of Chadragupt Maurya, in today’s time.

 

Angela Saini’s “Geek Nation” is a quest for the truth behind India’s ‘geekiness’. The plot revolves around space centres, gleaming technology hubs, and biotechnology labs, and juxtaposes them against anacient scripture libraries, rationalist societies and portals of public sector. Absolutely fine reading material.

And among young fantasy-fiction writers we see Giti Chandra coming out with her debut novel – Fang of Summoning, that has been described by critics as a fantasy novel in the same mould as Harry Potter. The novel is about a war between ancient good and evil; between Vasuki (the Indian snake king) and Edasich (the orange star in astronomy).

 
Rohit Prakash’s debut novel – Arindam and the Kalyug Debacle Premonition revolves around a young boy, Arindam. He is packed off to a boarding school by his parents but ends up in a mysterious land and entrusted with the mission to save the ‘the third world’, ‘the real world’ and ‘the land of the unknown’. The book surely ranks as one fantastic read.

Priya’s debut book Prophecy: The rise of the Swordshows Neha Sharma’s search for the last land of Atlantis leads her and Atlantologist Nick Halliday on the adventure of their lives. This one is based on the Greek mythology. Sounds like an interesting read.

Another good fantasy fiction writer is Payal Dhar. Her first offering was the hugely enjoyable and gripping – Shadow trilogy, and now she is back with the first of her new trilogy, Satin: A Stitch In Time.

Then there are a few new fiction tomes about to grace our bookshelves– The Ganesh Scripture by Alice Albina, The Golden Sacrifice of the Mahabharata by Maggi Lidchi Grassi and Kalika and Dimna: The Panchatantra Retold by Ramsay Wood use Ganesha, Vyasa, Arjuna and mythical demons to narrate gripping stories –but all by foreign authors.
Publishers too have recognized the growing demand in the fantasy-fiction category. They are entertaining new entrants of this genre. Possibilities are aplenty. It’s just the push that Indian writers need to explore this genre further more.

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Comically Tuned

We all love going through the small comic strips that appear in newspapers. There is something about them that always catches our attention. No, it not just about the instant smile that they bring, but the satire on certain socio-political or other critical issues that hooks us on to the graphical representation. The works of R.K. Laxman and Suraj ‘Eskay’ Sriram are cases in point.

Come to think of it, amongst the first things a baby is taught or shown are pictures.
And right from our childhood, reading comics is one of our greatest indulgences.

Kids would create havoc if their monthly subscription didn’t arrive or wasn’t handed to them. Well, at least that was the case in my house.

I remember, my brother and I had an entire rack full of ChandamamaTinkleJataka TalesBahadur (Indrajal Comics),Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu, Pinky, Billoo, Shrimatiji, Shikari ShambhuAkbar and BirbalTantri the Mantri, Suppandi, Nagraj (snake king) whose powers are based on ancient Hindu tales, and various other characters from Amar Chitra Katha, Gotham Comics and Diamond Comics.


Then came Western comics in the form of Archie’s, TinTinAsterix,Dennis the MenacePopeye the sailorSpidermanSuperman, Batman, X-Men and their ilk.

But as we grew up, comics had to take a back-seat – given the academic overload.

Not to forget the advent of television, followed by umpteen animated series on cartoon channels, which was closely followed by the highly engrossing game consoles and the internet lure. Comics and graphic novels lost their readers almost in a jiffy. And surprisingly, us, readers did not seem to miss our “once-upon-a-time-favorite” characters too. Somehow, Mario and Luigi seemed more interesting and car racing was more fun than reading and laughing over Suppandi’s idiocracy.

And soon, comics almost disappeared.

But just like other things in life that have undergone revamping, comics too seem to have come back in a new rejuvenated form.

A new wave of graphic novelists has emerged, in the recent past, to shake up the art form. We no longer see conventional centuries-old myths and folktales adorning the covers of comic books. The new crossover Indian superheroes have gained popularity and a wider audience amongst the adults as well. And subjects now range from subtle social messages about the environment and society to bolder issues of homosexuality and politics.

New-age artists are looking to create brand new superheroes that are quintessentially Indian to see off competition from the likes of Spiderman and Batman.
Amongst the new-age cartoonists and graphic novel designers, we have Sarnath Banerjee, whose graphic novel “Corridor” is set in New Delhi and delves into politics and sex. Sarnath is known to write and develop comics through his keen observations.

River of Stories” by Orijit Sen, that released around 1994 in black-and-white, dealt with the social and environmental impact of a controversial dam, and prompted changes even among traditional comic publishers in India.

Kari” by Amruta Patil, the writer also known as India’s first female graphic artist, centers on a suicidal lesbian and has been dubbed India’s first gay graphic novel. And another, “Kashmir Pending,” by Naseer Ahmed and Saurabh Singh, seen through the eyes of a reformed militant in jail in the disputed region.

A recent Mumbai based start-up, Vimanika Comics, aims to bridge the gap between historical narratives and graphic novels, giving mythological characters a 21st century facelift.
From what I gather, the company’s “The Sixth” series shows Karna, a warrior from the ancient Indian epic “Mahabharata,” in a modern light. The series starts as a high-flying businessman, suffering from recurrent nightmares, discovers he is the reincarnation of Karna.

Another publisher, Campfire, based in New Delhi, is about to launch “Ravana: Roar of the Demon King,” a graphic novel of a story retold over centuries in India but this time seen through the eyes of its primary antagonist — the demon king Ravana.

Fresh initiatives like Manta Ray, Level 10, Random, Abstraction, World Comics India (an NGO floated by young artists, who pick tales of common man’s heroism) Cartoon Watch, Comix.India, Creative Gaga, and many others aim to offer a platform to new talent. This alone shows the uprising the industry is about to notice soon.

Even the virtual world of web-comics has managed to entice readers.
I read this recently and decided to bring it everyone’s notice as well:


Kshiraj Telang has more than a thousand comic strips, many around the middle-class status symbol – a pug puppy on the web. Badmash is created by and aimed at the Indian diaspora. Curry Bear Comics is another popular Indian webcomic that revolves around three South Asian college students and their White friends, taking a dig at the Indian students at odds in America. Fly, You Fools (webcomic) deals with the daily irritants of life in India. Arbit Choudhury, regarded as the world’s first MBA comic character had to be created in India. Though, another Dilbert is what we are waiting for, to comment on our cutely corrupt and jugadu Indian work culture, Sunny Kris, a web comic, focuses on the unique idiosyncrasies of an Indian workplace.

And this is just the beginning.

Bringing back and boosting the fading love for comics, India recently saw the first Comic Con being held in the Nation’s capital, popularizing graphic novels and comics in India.
I heard that the two day convention saw more than 15,000 fans relishing the art in its new avatar. Fans dressed up as various characters, from American superheroes and villains such as Superman, Wolverine, and Harley Quinn to local Indian heroes like Chacha Chaudhary.
The festival had stalls for comics and graphic novels as well as workshops, activities and book launches. Illustrators, cartoonists, designers were awarded and felicitated for their contribution to the world of comics and fun.

Comic Con India also saw many new comics being launched – including “Uud Bilaw Manus: Back with a Vengeance” by young Adhiraj Singh, which shows off a new Indian superhero: a half-otter-half-human from the post-apocalyptic fictional place of “Beehar” in northern India, who fights corrupt officials, among others. That seemed somewhat striking. No matter how modern or western the graphics look; the stories, the subjects and the emotions that it carries is very distinctively local in flavor.
Sumit Kumar’s The Itch You Can’t Scratch, is an adult book, not by common connotations attached to adulthood-sex, but because of its stark honesty.

Amazingly, the sales over the two days at Comic Con spoke volumes about the love for comic books that still exists in a country like ours.

Overall, not just the sales, but the sheer enthusiasm and spectacular attendance and excitement shown by the people stands to prove that comics and graphic novels will never vanish. They had and always will find space in our hearts and bookshelves.

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