Graphic Novels Find Toehold - With Bollywood Twist

By Madhusree Chatterjee

New Delhi, Feb 5 (IANS) 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, told IANS.

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, told IANS.

"We are also discussing a graphic novel project with ad whizkid R. Balakrishnan (Balki) of 'Paa' fame. It is in a nascent stage," Kumar said.

"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, told IANS.

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 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 was slow to capture the market was the high cost of production," Chandrakant Baua, publisher of the Mumbai-based Shree Book Centre, told IANS.

The Shree Book Centre distributes graphic versions of popular titles like the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Biggles, Agatha Christie, Iznogoud, Quick and Flupke, Doomsday and Birth of a Monster series.

The price of graphic novels ranges between Rs.190 and Rs.699 on an average, publishers said.

"It is not the cost but the writer which matters. For example, I like graphic books by American writer Warren Ellis. His books are extremely crass with amazing artwork and a very good storyline. I also like reading Neil Gaiman (of the Sandman) and Terry Pratchett," Abhisekh, a second year student of English Literature at Delhi University, told IANS at the Hachette-India/Little Brown vend at the Book Fair.

The publishing house, which has three popular graphic titles, The Manga Bible (Rs.350), Asterix and Calvin & Hobbes in India, will launch a new graphic series by Stephanie Myers in India.

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 the Campfire, told IANS.

The publishing house has 40 titles in its kitty.

Graphic novels are read widely by techies.

"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, told IANS.

The publishing house has a debut novel by Vishwajyoti Ghosh and "The Harappa Files" by Sarnath Banerjee lined up for release this year.


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