India is a country rich in literature, but many people overlook its brilliant graphic novelists.
Many are well aware of the popularity of graphic novels in the West. However, the love for this medium and this literary culture has now spread to South Asia, especially India.
Graphic novels are generally rich in detail and character. They often explore mature subjects, sometimes containing darker and realistic subjects.
They are unique in the way they combine words and pictures, using symbolism to generate a story.
However, it is atypical to instantly visualize Indian novelists when thinking of this genre.
This is not to say that Indian graphic artists do not exist. They most certainly do and are becoming more and more popular.
The Indian literary scene has seen graphic novelists tackle topics such as Kashmir and LGBTQIA +. Make this art form more inclusive while celebrating creative skills.
A myriad of excellent graphic storytellers are emerging. Their power to present serious or everyday struggles in a visually eye-catching way is captivating.
DESIblitz explores eight Indian novelists and their works that are worth reading.
Appupen is a comic book writer, visual artist, and graphic novelist. It tells stories of a mythical dimension called Halahala.
Much of his work focuses on a dark world view with vivid artwork and satirical influences. Other notable themes include corporate greed and religion.
In 2009, Blaft published Appupen’s first graphic novel, To the moon. This explores the birth and journey of life in the fantastic world Halahala.
Written on 272 pages, To the moon draws gloomy comparisons to our world.
Gods, ancient creatures, and men devise plans to take control.
As a result, the novel received high praise and was selected for the Angoulême Festival in 2011.
Additionally, Appupen’s second silent graphic novel titled Legends of Halahala also has a dystopian tone.
Published by HarperCollins in 2013, this graphic novel has no words. Therefore, the graphic novelist relied heavily on art and illustrations to convey the narrative.
Appupen’s distinctive style and vivid colors make it a spellbinding read.
Set in dark Halahala, the book consists of five silent love stories with a dominant theme of obsession.
Furthermore, in addition to dystopian fiction, Appupen also delves into the futuristic and robotic world.
His graphic novel 2018, The Serpent and the Lotus, features humans and AI machines dying. These threaten life in Halahala.
Appupen specializes in mythical, dystopian and political themes. Above all, these generate debates and conversations on certain taboo subjects.
Malik Sajad started working as a cartoonist at the age of 14. Sajad studied at Goldsmiths University in London.
Following this, he released his first graphic novel, Munnu – A boy from Kashmir in 2015 in the UK.
However, it was released in India six months later.
Sajad was born in Kashmir himself. Therefore, the conflict arising in this region strongly influenced him.
Her debut novel offers readers a different take on Indian administered Kashmir.
Munnu enjoys drawing, but his childhood is marred by conflict. The graphic novelist uses vivid illustrations to depict the world of Munnu where militarization is normal.
Sajad paints an astonishing portrait of the suffering of the Kashmiris.
They fight political conflicts every day. Readers will follow the story as the young men travel to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir for training.
In addition, schools are almost non-existent and family members are taken to identification parades.
In addition, the use of symbolism is vital for the story.
Sajad uses the endangered Hangul deer – the Kashmir deer – to metaphorize the situation in the region.
According to the novelist, the conflict in Kashmir “shook people like an earthquake”.
Sajad remembers the devastation of Kashmir:
“(It) forever changed the face, structure and traditional landscape of Kashmir.”
Overall, this novel emphasizes that life is precious in Kashmir as well. Likewise, its universal elements of human experience are captivating.
Sajad has since gained critical acclaim and won the “Verve Story Teller of The Year” award.
Amruta Patil has captivated readers through her various graphic novels, an artist with a mix of visual styles.
Notably, Patil has a distinct aesthetic that encompasses acrylic paint, collage, watercolor, and charcoal.
Patil studied at Goa College of Art in 1999.
Subsequently, she obtained a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from the School of the Museum of Fine Art, Boston / Tufts University in 2004.
The recurring themes in this graphic novelist’s work are an excellent overview of the company. These include themes of sexuality, myths and sustainable living, for example.
In addition, Patil’s work includes Memento Mori (2010) which explores the inevitability of death.
His graphic novel from 2008 Kari explored a more taboo subject. He follows two young lesbian lovers who are driven to attempt suicide.
The story recounts their struggles to establish their own identity in a modern city. It is a world mainly inhabited by heterosexuals.
Patil does a phenomenal job of helping readers understand heteronormativity issues.
In an interview with Paul Gravett, Amruta Patil says:
“I wanted to send an unusual protagonist to the Indian literary scene.”
“A deeply introverted, asocial, queer young woman – and yet the book is not a coming-out tale.
“Kari’s homosexuality is incidental, rather than central in her career”.
Patil’s work challenges binaries and offers a new way of thinking for women.
In addition, she is also the author of Adi Parva: Churning the Ocean (2012) and Sauptik: blood and flowers (2016) and Aranyaka: the book of the forest (2019).
Vishwajyoti is a graphic novelist who studied graphic design and advertising at the Delhi College of Art.
Finding inspiration as a student, his first novel Delhi calm (2010) explores the Emergency, from 1975 to 1977, an event still frequently mentioned by politicians.
The book shows what life can be like when your rights have been suspended. There is unemployment and people arrested for criticizing their leaders.
Political themes are interesting and relevant to modern audiences.
While he does not aim to be political in his work, he naturally gravitates towards the issues India faces every day.
Interestingly, Ghosh’s drawing style varies. For example, Delhi calm was created only with watercolors.
Ghosh says there is a certain illusion of simplicity with this medium:
“You can leave the paper blank, you can say things with a stroke or two, and at the same time you can work on layers. “
Overall, Ghosh’s books are quite text rich and designed in a traditional comic book style. Bubbles and signs are visible everywhere and instantly capture readers.
Another graphic novelist to follow is Saraswati Nagpal. She is an Indian freelance writer, choreographer, poet, educator and writer.
His first graphic novel entitled Sita, Daughter of the Earth (2011) was the first Indian graphic novel to be nominated for the “Stan Lee Excelsior UK” award.
It is a graphic novel for young adults and the story follows the Ramayana, told from Sita’s perspective.
It should be noted that this novel is an ideal way to introduce children to the millennial legends of India.
In addition, this book is ideal for those who wish to engage in the traditional history of Ramayana in a unique way.
Ram’s wife, Sita, is the central figure.
This generates a glimpse of his pain after leaving all of his comforts to live in a forest and get kidnapped by a demon.
Nagpal uses legendary tales and brings them contemporary relevance.
This is especially evident in the beautiful illustrations which are lucid, engaging, and complex.
Additionally, this style continues in his second graphic novel. Draupadi, the princess born of fire (2012).
Nagpal continues to tell stories. Here she tells the Mahabharata from Draupadi’s point of view.