Event: A graphic reading party in Bangalore

A reading party, a rather modern phenomenon of people coming together and being introduced to a genre or to read together, silently, sitting in a pub or a cafe, is a wonderful idea. Which is why when Gathr approached me for this event, I was quite excited. It’s happening this Thursday in Bangalore. I will be doing a talk on my love of comics, showing people the books I have, read other people’s collection of graphic novels and mostly celebrate the Indian comics genre. I hope there are more reading parties like this, that people sign up for and more and more people pick up Indian-made comics. Come over, peeps, if comics are your kind of a thing.
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The fifth edition of our odd juxtaposition of reading and party finds us focusing on modern Indian graphic novels, a genre that is really finding its feet. We’ve curated a set of some of the most interesting new works available for your reading pleasure. Continue reading “Event: A graphic reading party in Bangalore”

Talking about Indian comics in London

I’ll be giving a talk on Indian comics at the Cartoon Museum in London later this week. This post is about how it happened. It’s a good story, do read it!

Early in May I attended a workshop on British comics, full of comic scholars in London, led by the marvellous Paul Williams from Exeter University. There I was, in bustling, sunshine-y London, closed off in a small room with twenty scholars, who had brought along old comics from the 40s, 50s, 60s, 80s – all decades really. We discussed on visual imagery in war comics, what British identity means, and many other important things. And I didn’t miss the outdoors, which says something about the comics, the activity and knowledge that these fabulous scholars presented there. But I digress. What happened in lunchtime is what led to the talk.

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We munched on fried fish, aalo pakoras (you read it right), spring rolls and quinua salad in the pub while talking comics and then headed back to the Cartoon Museum, which is where this workshop was happening. It was a 10 minute walk. While walking back, I happened to accompany Anita O’Brien, the curator at Cartoon Museum and then of course it being comics, I started yapping about my love of comics and how there are so many talented artists doing fantastic things in India and how she should do something about it here in London. She told me she’d commissioned the World War I graphic novel with Campfire. I told her the artist, Lalit Sharma, was a good friend. We found out we knew more than a couple of other artists from the industry.

‘You should do something more on Indian comics here!’ I cried, my head buzzing with ideas.

‘Why don’t you do it?’ she asked, calmly.

‘Me? Do what?’

‘Talk about Indian comics,’ she said.

‘Oh,’ I said, rather eloquently.

And that’s how it happened. Before I knew it, I’d asked Jason Quinn to ask me the right questions in this talk, who was sweet enough to agree. We will talk about comics coming out from India, some of which we love, some which we don’t, swap tales, talk about my work and his and anything else we feel like really. We have the stage after all.

If you happen to be in London and would like to join in the joy ride, come over. It’s a free event and you’ll get to hear stories about comics. What can go wrong with that? All you need to do is register yourself by sending a tiny email to the Cartoon Museum at shop@cartoonmuseum.org to reserve a seat. It can be a sentence long, really. I don’t think they have a word limit to it.

Finally, the moral of the tale (for there’s always a moral): Always walk back from the pub and always yap about the things you love. 🙂

Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

Teaching comics at Bookalore

Making comics is such a difficult task. I have always appreciated the dedication and the love of comics in artists that i meet every day online and offline. So it took me a while to say yes to the kind people at Bookalore when they suggested that I do a comics workshop in their July event for kids. I went back to the drawing board (my whiteboard in my study) and figured what to do with kids. How does one teach about making comics? As a writer that too? So I asked Bangalore-based, soft spoken artist Ojoswi Sur to join me in the workshop to give an artist’s perspective to kids.

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It was all experimentation on our part. We loosely structured the workshop and decided to give the kids the basics of comic making (panels, balloons for dialogues, types) and gave them a chilling scene from The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong and see what they came up with. The results were surprising and so much fun! The kids huddled, discussed, wondered, had a nervous breakdown, scribbled, begged each other for erasers and mostly I hope had a grand time. Of course I had grossly underestimated the time they would need to make comics and given them a long scene (poor things), so none could complete the effort. But they did have a gala time and I requested them to complete the comics at home and email them to me. Hope some do.

Some pictures that my dear, dear Ashwani who always comes with me to workshops, took. Enjoy 🙂

If the pictures don’t open in your browser, see them on either of these links: Google+ or Facebook depending on your choice of network.

Comic fundas at Bookalore festival

Here it is #Bangalore. Have been roped in to give comic fundas to kids (9-13 yrs) in the upcoming Bookalore event by the amazingly sweet children books author Asha Nehemiah (whose sheer number of books can shame Jack and his tall beanstalks!). The workshop is all ready with a spine-tingling scene from The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong.  I will also talk about my experiences in creating comics, taking examples from Krishna Defender of Dharma and The Skull Rosary. Will be doing it with illustrator and artist, Ojoswi Sur (who was kind enough to say yes in such a tight schedule!)

Spread the word or come by if you have kids in the age groups of 9-13. Open to all.

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The necessity to talk of things taboo

I recently went to Comic Con Mumbai to launch my graphic novel The Skull Rosary. The week before it was maddening; last minute edits, waiting, back and forth and the general nervousness before anything goes to press. The one thing that struck me, and struck me hard again and again was a sense of self-censorship that we as creators – me as a writer and Vivek Goel as an artist as well as the publisher of the book –  were applying to the book. We were all slightly scared, of putting out things that might offend. And in a book which was made to offend, we softened things that shouldn’t have been softened and loaded it with disclaimers. I bet we will still get some angry emails and posts and tweets. After all, self-righteousness is fashionable in the society.

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Talking about transgression, or things that are taboo, that deviate from the norm is important today for us as creative people and for readers. Especially since we as a society are becoming so rigid, so unacceptable of other point of views recently. Upon just seeing The Skull Rosary’s summary, a journalist asked me if I wasn’t skeptical that this book and the way we portray Shiva and other deities will cause protests. Because protests by those who think their religion and moral stance is better than others’ is a done thing in our society and happening a little too often in our country. I answered yes, sure. Everytime some boundaries are breached, some people have a problem. You can’t help that. But as a storyteller I am willing to take the risk because stories have always been and will always be about questioning the status quo, to become a mirror to the society.

As a creative person, it’s not a choice for me to break boundaries. I write, I create because I want to break boundaries. I want to question the status quo, to force myself and the readers to look at our own filth, to touch it, gobble it, taste its grubbiness.  I feel it’s my duty to transgress in everything I create, to explore the darkness inside and outside of us. For if that doesn’t happen in stories, then how will change happen? How will we progress? Move onto something new? Become (if it’s possible) better?

The Skull Rosary for me was all about exploring taboo subjects. The idea behind all five of its stories, whether its dialogue or art was to break down boundaries, both of the story and of the graphic novel as a structure. Brahma’s fifth head explores the issue of incest and is written in verse form because rhythm touches the soul in a way language can never do. So you have poetry which was inspired by the Greek Furies in comic format. The blind demon is the story of Andhaka who is blind and consumes by the desire to see. What happens when you get consumed by a desire? When it eats you up whole? So much so that you can cross any boundary to get there? Prahlad’s dream even explores what happens when a god gets drunk with desire. Then there’s the Oedipal complex, where a son desires his mother. That’s in The Other Woman. In Goat Head, a king lets his daughter die because for him a status in society is more important. These stories explore our filth, our dirty secrets and our evil sides.

Shiva to me represents everything that’s taboo in our society. He teaches us to accept everything, even those in the fringes. He’s okay with murderers, thieves, sexual deviants, prostitutes. In other words he is the guy to go to if you are on the fringes of the society. And in a society that is shrinking in acceptance, more and more people are going to the fringes, to that which is considered unnatural, taboo or unacceptable. Hello, Section 377 anyone?

On another note, the novel I am writing currently is also feeling the pressure to be self-censored. In every sentence I write, the censor board in me tries to soften the crassness, the violence, the frustration, the expletives. Sometimes I bow to it, but mostly I try and ignore the moral police inside of me. As I keep hoping that we as a society will learn to do as well.

FB page for Skull Rosary

Just a few months ago, I announced my upcoming graphic novel The Skull Rosary. To build up some excitement (not only for you guys, but also for myself!) I have just launched its FB page! If you read this, and click on the FB link too, I hope do press that all important LIKE button. The graphic novel releases in May 2012 and will be done in collaboration with artist Vivek Goel and his indie production house Holy Cow Pvt Ltd. I am thinking how I can Do keep coming back to know what more is happening in this!

And a sneak update: The Skull Rosary comprises of five stories and I have already completed one of them! It sounds beautiful to my ears, but you never know what happens when its thrown out there! Fingers crossed.

Preview of my upcoming comic anthology

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This one is completely my baby as a writer with artist Vivek Goel. Comprising of five short stories, this anthology is a new take on a mythology. That’s all I can tell you right now, more will come laters. Oh, and it’s going to release next year during summer holidays. Hope some kids out there are excited!

My first graphic novel with Campfire

Just discovered my debut novel’s cover on the Campfire website. Here’s a sneak into what the beautiful book, illustrated by Rajesh N, will look like. I am so, so excited about it!

Krishna, Defender of Dharma


The best part is that you can PRE-ORDER the book now! It costs Rs 195 and delivery worldwide is free! Click here to pre-order!

Keeping it short and sweet

A friend tweeted about her company’s requirement of mobile content creators. Now the term is understandable if rather pretentious (like using sales executive rather than the obvious salesman). But what I want to talk about here is what these content creators are actually doing and getting paid oodles of money for. What does a person who writes for mobile phones actually write? So I search and found it out: The mobile content creators write SMSes, one-liners for blogs or websites. Basically single liners which intrigue the reader, catch her attention and make her click and read. It means someone who can provide catchy one-liners which fit into the browser space of a small mobile screen and incite the user to click on it. For most of us, with our Tweet-long attention span, we give only a nano second to an SMS or tweet. In than time, we want someone to goad us with interesting headlines or single line sum ups of stories.

With more people getting hooked to this mobiles for content, I think this is here to stay. Easy money you think? Try writing one SMS with a 140 character limit and you will know. It does takes sheer creativity and ingenious to write that one liner; to sum up a whole story in a single line. It’s the same as writing a novel, which btw I think is fast becoming a dinosaur. I hear less and less people talking about reading novels. Especially the younger ‘uns.

Wonder if I should try my hand at a tweet-novel. Bet someone out there is doing it. Lemme find out.

Review: Movie WANTED

Let me negate some facts before I begin. This is not a rant. This is not about the movie which had Ms Big Lips Jolie and another guy I cannot remember the name of. I am talking about the comic book.

It was with pleasure that I welcomed WANTED, a limited edition comic book series beautifully created by Mark Millar, touted at the king of realistic comic scripting in the 90s. I have fallen in love all over again.

The first thing I loved about it is the fact that it ENDS! After reading and reading and then reading again, issue after issue after issue of Bleach, the number one manga in English translation, for about three months while I was working on the Krishna script, I had had enough. I wanted to read a comic which actually ended to some extent. Not a Batman, Superman or Spiderman who are splashed timelessly in their never-moving worlds.

Someone recommend Wanted and since I liked Mark Millar’s work, I picked it up. Since I had seen the movie Wanted (no this is still not about that movie), I had some trepidation about the story. I was thankfully completely mistaken!

The plot is a marvel. Of course I won’t tell you what it is here. Just remember that it’s NOT anything they show in the movie. The grey, dark characters, confused motivations and endless, mind-boggling action make it a beautiful series to read. JG Jones realistic artwork keeps you glued to the action sequences. He has superb control on body language and expressions. Mark adds more by way of dialogues. The whole series keeps you glued for not only to understand what’s happening to the protagonist but also constantly marvel the world he’s living in where supervillians have twisted the reality fabric and converted themselves into superheroes!

Awesome plot, brilliantly written. More when I reread it J

I will end with a question. VOTE in the comments below!

How do you like your comics?

  • Book after book is how I like it. It’s not about the story but my favourite character’s adventures. I never want him/her/it to stop!
  • Limited edition is the way to go. Five issues later the thing finishes and I can get on with my life!
  • Limited Editions were so 90s. Big fat graphic novel is how I like them. One book, end of story.