By Namita Handa/ DNA Mumbai/ 3-4-2010
Mumbai: Artist Vishwajyoti Ghosh has always been interested in comics. So when he visited Lahore on a ‘reporting visa’, a journey filled with intriguing interactions with locals, and rendezvous with Pakistani intelligence and the police, Ghosh decided that the anecdotes needed to be related not just in words but also graphically. That’s when Lahore Reporting was born.
Ghosh is one among many who are turning to graphic novels to tell a story, a format fast gaining popularity among avid readers. A spokesperson from the Oxford Bookstores informs us that over the last four years, there has been an increase in the number of graphic novel titles, and the market for them has also grown by about 15-20 per cent. Lipika Bhushan, marketing head, HarperCollins Publishers India Ltd, says, “There is a consistency in the number of titles in this category being published by us and we do see a rise in the number of copies that sell year after year. There has been a growing interest in this category and we get a lot of enquiries from young students.”
The most popular Indian graphic novels are Corridor and The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers by Sarnath Banerjee, Kari by Amruta Patil, Kashmir Pending by Naseer Ahmed and The Hotel at the End of the World by Parismita Singh.
Visuals do end up having a lasting impression on the readers. Any doubts about serious issues being expressed visually have taken a backseat. Ghosh says, “In India, both as artists and publishers, we are slowly maturing from intrigue to interest. From the reader, there is a real appreciation for different types of artworks as well as narratives in the graphic novel realm.”
It is presumed that graphic novels are similar to comics. But the themes of graphic novels are usually more mature than one finds in comics; graphic novels are a self-contained story rather than an ongoing serial. Writing a graphic novel is more complex than a conventional novel. “Story is being told by two different media.
Unlike comic books, you can understand the story only by looking at the graphics and skip the reading or vice versa; but this cannot be done with a graphic novel,” says Karthika VK, publisher and chief editor, HarperCollins Publishers India Ltd. Nicolas Wild, author of Kabul Disco seconds that, “The graphic novel genre is a narrative art closest to cinema or theatre than books. How to tell a story with images is the challenge.”
Anindya Roy, editor of When Kulbhushan Met Stockli, believes it’s all about storytelling, the way you articulate your story. Roy says, “Artists are giving their best, from the colour they use to the ambience they try to create in their stories.” For Ghosh, the combination of the two is what actually works. “The marriage of text and visuals works for me. Both have their strengths that need to blend perfectly to create a single narrative. This is one of the challenges that make me pen down a graphic novel,” says Ghosh.
High price of graphic novels tends to be a hindrance. Sivaraman Balakrishnan, deputy manager, marketing, Crossword Bookstores, says, “The price is double that of a novel, as most of them are imported. More Indian graphic novelists, along with Indian publishers, should get the price down to help increase overall readership.” Karthika, however, differs. “Avid fans of graphic novels understand the concept and will buy them, whatever the price.”
It’s safe to say that the demand for graphic novels will rise in the near future. “I don’t think the interest in graphic novels is a fad that will soon die out; rather, the market for them will mature and stabilise. They will be viewed not as comics in the stereotypical sense but as an interesting form of literature.” After all, we are moving towards a more visual form of communication.
Ghosh’s Delhi Calm, a story about three young men in Delhi caught in a political situation in the 1970’s, is all set to be published in June.