For several decades, comics were often relegated to a substandard genre of entertainment catering solely to children, whose annual tantrums at Wheeler book stalls across the country’s railways stations led their exhausted parents to part precious money for copies of Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha.
Featuring characters and settings that Indians could relate to, graphic novels quickly exploded in the new millennium, with numerous titles stretching across the journalism, mythology, fantasy and sci-fi genres.
For a change, India offered its introverted comic artists and authors a wide canvas to unleash marvellous worlds, and comment on contemporary culture through dazzling, thoughtful panels.
Here’s a list of 5 lesser-known graphic novels that must grace your bookshelf:
1. First Hand: Graphic Non-Fiction from India Volume 1
True to its long moniker, this anthology is a non-fictional account of nameless people caught in the crossfire of bureaucracy and apathy found in India’s social and political milieu.
It’s a serious work of art. The tales are meaningful and span a gamut of issues, ranging from RTI to human trafficking and more. The art is clean and contemporary, and complements the work of seasoned authors such as Orijit Sen and a multitude of first-time writers in a wonderful collaboration that’s also a perfect gift.
2. Sauptik: Blood and Flowers
After Kari and Adi Parva, Amruta Patil’s latest effort is a lush, picturesque retelling of the Mahabharata and other oral storytelling traditions of India.
Narrated partly by Ashwathama, son of the great teacher Dronacharya, Sauptik offers readers various perspectives on the Mahabharata, thereby revealing the charm of observation and accuracy when it comes to telling tales. Earning high accolades for its artwork, this book is a nuanced keeper.
3. Kashmir Pending
In contemporary times, Kashmir has been misunderstood more than it has been honestly documented. Author Naseer Ahmed resorts to telling the tale of ordinary Kashmiris in the state through Mushtaq, a reformed militant locked up in jail.
Featuring multiple perspectives on the everyday trials and tribulations of locals, the sensitive topic has been tackled deftly and may just leave you with a better understanding of ground realities in the mountain state.
Something in the superhero league, Aghori is Vikram Roy, a modern man whose life is turned upside down in the span of a single night. Unable to comprehend this upheaval, Vikram vanishes only to return 12 years later as Vira – the aghori, who has big plans to cancel the impending apocalypse.
Aghori features a gripping storyline and excellent artwork that illustrates a fantasy world in successive books as a series. Highly recommended.
5. Angry Maushi
Since many years, Abhijeet Kini’s artwork has elicited loud chuckles among magazine and periodical readers in India. Debuting at Mumbai Comic Con in 2011, Angry Maushi is a foul-mouthed Maharashtrian woman who’s had it with the world of evil-doers and politicians.
This 20-page romp introduces the origins of Maushi and ends on a promising note on her next adventure. A sweet, slick graphic novel not entirely recommended for tiny kids!
Image Credit: Amazon.in