When my eyes are screen-lagged, I love to cuddle up on my couch and unfurl a good old graphic novel, especially a narrative non-fiction one. A few years ago, I would have always recommended fantasy (I hounded artist Appupen, till he agreed to draw the covers of my fantasy series Anantya Tantrist Mysteries and have two graphics novels to my name: the bestselling Krishna Defender of Dharma and The Skull Rosary.). However, I’ve recently found myself at the non-fiction shelf – both online and offline – my eyes scanning through graphic novels on personal history and biographies.
Perhaps, the reason is the new book I’m about to release – a non-fiction, my first, on contemporary Indian scientists – who I interviewed all of last year. Narrative non-fiction, or the creative retelling of people’s stories, is something that I have become quite interested in recently.
Even bookstores find them a constant read for readers. Abhinav Bamhi at Faqir Chand and Sons at Delhi, feels that the graphic novels have been ever popular. “Thanks to the new ideas, and unconventional illustrators and writers, this genre continues strong.”
A list of Must-Read Graphic novels
In the year 2021, as life remains uncertain and most of us screen-lagged peeps are shutting down their Netflix and heading to books, here are my recommendations of the Indian non-fiction graphic novels you must pick up to curl up with.
Bhimayana, a graphic novel
An intriguing story, the one which remains relevant in all days; Bhimyana is a fantastic retelling of Ambedkar’s history, his caste struggles (which remain relevant today too) and his travel to become the man who developed India’s constitution. It’s a beautiful visual book, illustrated by well known Gond artists Durgabai Vyam and Subhash Vyam and written by S.Anand and Srividya Natarajan. A must-add to any graphic novel collection.
Kari, a graphic novel by Amruta Patil
Kari is an enchanting tale of a homosexual woman and her struggles in the city. It’s dark, powerfully inked and retold by Amruta Patil, another powerful graphic novelist in India who you have to read if you haven’t already. I found it a bit depressing (especially in today’s time) but beautiful and a must include in this list.
Delhi Calm, a graphic novel by Vishwajyoti Ghosh
In the year 1975, India was under emergency and most of the young readers know very little about that time. Vishwajyoti Ghosh, a Delhi-based graphic novelist, creates the time visually through Delhi Calm. A relevant book even today.
Kashmir Pending, a graphic novel
Kashmir Pending is a powerful tale of what happens to young people in a place which has seen decades of strife. We see the world through a boy Mustaq’s eyes – an artist with family and political complications. It’s a dark tale, yes, but also a tale of hope in a dystopia, penned by Naseer Ahmed and inked by Saurabh Singh. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it online currently to add a link.
The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers by Sarnath Banerjee
Another book which is a treat is Sarnath Banerjee’s hilarious The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers. You can always depend on Sarnath’s visual storytelling skills for a fun journey into and around the mind. From the more somber All Quiet in Vikaspuri, a dystopian tale based in Delhi to Doab Dil which features Banerjee’s sketches, and Sudeep Chaudhuri’s colouring, Sarnath always offers a visual journey through urban India’s soul.
Hush, a graphic novel by M Ray
Another rather disturbing tale, powerfully told is Hush by Manta Ray. It’s a silent graphic novel on child abuse, which delves straight into your heart and wrenches it a bit. Again, a dark read, so don’t go in if you’re not ready for it.
Real Mr Barkotoki by Shisir Basumatri
I’ve just picked up this lovely title from Blossoms in Bangalore, an indie store which is always a delight as I continue to discover something new here. I am still enjoying every bit of Real Mr Barkotoki’s dreams and fantasies. autobiographical journey. More when I’m finished!
There are so many more in the graphic novel category that I love. Especially some of the better known international authors which need a separate blog, but for now I leave you with a photograph of the titles I have not talked about (and some that I have).
What’s your favourite graphic novel, fellow book addicts? Have I missed some in this list? Leave in a comment here or on drop in your opinion on Twitter.
Ps. All images are taken from their Amazon pages unless specified otherwise.