Graphic detail
Madhusree Chatterjee

Graphic novels find a toehold, with a Bollywood twist

Graphic novels, the illustrated avatar of the conventional storybook, are gradually making their presence felt in the country, offering a wider bouquet of Indian and foreign titles and even roping in Bollywood filmmakers for racy scripts.

Westland Limited and Tranquebar Press, an upcoming publishing house promoting young writers from across the globe, "has extreme plans to promote the segment".

"Suddenly, the film industry is interested in the graphic novel as an extension of what it is doing supplementing it," Paul Vinay Kumar, executive editor of Westland Limited and Tranquebar Press, says. The publishing house is talking to filmmaker Anurag Kashyap to "develop a series of graphic novels", which will be scripted by him and illustrated by Westland.. "We are also discussing a graphic novel project with ad whizkid R. Balakrishnan (Balki) of Paa fame. It is in a nascent stage," Kumar says.

"I think a younger and more visually trained generation identifies with the text-image composite. Those who've grown up with comic books are comfortable with the idea of reading images. Then, there are the more adventurous readers who are constantly seeking new forms and ideas," Karthika V.K., chief editor and publisher of HarperCollins-India, says.

The graphic book, which existed as comic books in India till the 1980s, evolved as picture novels in the mid-90s when Goa-based illustrator Orijit Sen published River of Stories (1994) about a young activist campaigning against the Narmada Dam Project.

The book led to a spurt in the publication of similar illustrated novels like Corridor, The Barn Owl's Wondrous Capers, Kari and The Hotel At The End of the World.

A year ago, four illustrators/writers Sarnath Banerjee, Vishwajyoti Ghosh, Parismita Singh and Orijit Sen joined hands with Amitava Kumar to set up the Pao's Collective, India's first platform to promote graphic novels.

Since then, almost every contemporary popular literature series be it Indian or foreign has flooded the country.

The format is trying to fill the gap between television and fine print to lure new and younger segments of readers, said publishers at the recnt World Book Fair in the Capital. "The genre, which had a slow start in the 1990s, is now coming into its own. One of the reasons why graphic novels were slow to capture the market was the high cost of production," Chandrakant Baua, publisher of the Mumbai-based Shree Book Centre, says.

The Campfire Graphic Books a Delhi-based graphic novel publishing house set up in 2008 publishes classics in both English and Hindi and exports its books to Britain and the US.

"Our mission is to put the fun back in reading. Children and young adults prefer to watch television because an average book comprises 500-600 pages. We abridge them to 80 pages. India is learning to appreciate graphic novels," Abhisekh Singh, marketing manager of Campfire, says.

"Students from IIT mail-order graphic novels because they find it easier to relate to the genre. The response to one of the recent releases, Kabul Disco, a graphic novel on Afghanistan, was overwhelming. We printed 5,000 books in the first run," Lipika Bhushan, general manager (marketing), HarperCollins-India, says. The publishing house has a debut novel by Vishwajyoti Ghosh and The Harappa Files by Sarnath Banerjee lined up for release this year. IANS