Telling stories aka why I get such a kick writing INDIA AUTHENTIC

I spent the last year on sabbticcal in India and one incident that happened sometime in the first two three months kind of stuck with me.

Every freakin day for a week I would drive into my apartment complex n Hyderabad, India and find this huge Toyota mini van parked in my slot.

I got so flustered one day I stuck a note under its wiper politely saying Dear owner of minivan, the slot you are parked in is mine, would you mind moving your car so that I can park my measly little 800cc car. I also gave my cell number and parked as usual in the open.


The next morning an over apologetic man called (He turned out to be my landlord 🙂 ). Long story short we got our parking woes straightened and towards the end of the talk, he politely inquired if in future I would not leave him stuff in writing and he would prefer it if I talked to him in person in case of any issues.

Now that is a very interesting point. India and Indians in particular are more familiar and comfortable with a conversational interaction than in writing. Much of our history and myths are an oral tradition too. This is a wonderful tradition as children have their elders tell them stories of days gone past, of kings and queens, of gods and demons. But for someone who does not know the language, much of this is lost. As a storyteller in a nation of storytellers it pained me a lot to think that there were but a mere handful of persons outside of those in the know who were aware of how rich and vibrant this tapestry of tales was.

Fast forward a month. My wife Preeti e-mailed me a link with a note, You will love this.It was an article in an Indian newspaper about something called Virgin Comics 🙂 I took one look at their site (especially the cover image of Ramayan Reborn) and I knew I had my answer. Reading the preview issue, I felt the art lent a bit of familiarity to those who have no idea who Rama (not the cylindrical space ship but the blue skinned warrior 🙂 ) or Hanuman (no relation to a certain Kryptonian ) to immerse themselves and enjoy what we for generations have come to cherish. Finally the Gordian knot has been slashed open, the answer my friend is comics.

In the forthcoming series INDIA AUTHENTIC we have tried to forge passage through the seemingly impregnable walls of geography and language and are trying to bring to an international audience the splendor of some iconic myths and legends of India complimented with edgy art. The themes in the tales are something everyone is familiar with, even though the dramatis personae might not be known to you, the primal fury of Kali, the benevolence of Ganesha or the single minded vengeance of Parshuram. We hope that the medium and presentation provides the lovers of tales of epic grandeur all around the globe their very own rosetta stone to enjoy this kaleidoscope.

Looking forward to writing for you
mohaps

Update

INDIA AUTHENTIC #1 / Ganesha hits the stands on May 9th 2007

Desi Kapow – Comic Books and India


Foreword

Last year I had gone back to my hometown of Bhubaneshwar in India and the annual book fare of which i have many fond memories was on. There was one stall where a notice kind of stood out at me. It said basically if you are a “writer” please sign up and receive a copy of a directory of other writers / publishers based in Orissa, my home state.

With my heart racing I approached the grim looking gentleman at the desk and our conversation some what went like this

ME: Hi, ummmm … I am a writer.
GRIM LOOKING GENTLEMAN: So?
ME: well… nothing much… the notice…err…says to sign up …
GLG (makes a face like he has just smelt a turd which had been mellowing since the days of Mohenjadaro-Harrappa): What do you write?
ME: Well.. I write for Virgin Comics
GLG (starts laughing like i told him that i have three tits): He He! Sorry serious writers only!

So that got me thinking about something i had posted on my blog long ago. Hence I decided to put it here on my new blog.

This is a reprint of a post from my old blog on sulekha.com. It was first posted on Aug 3 2006 5:28PM, so please keep that in mind while reading this. :)Also this was prior to me being aware of something called Virgin Comics

DESI KAPOW – Comic Books and India


A Funny thing happenned while I was trying to post this. I could not find a category suitable to post this in. So I chose to go with the positively ambivalent Books/Other.

That kind of illustrates the point i wish to make. We in India have embraced every other form of literary expression be it blogs, hardcore music, gritty filmmaking but we have still a long way to go in terms of our adoption of the Graphic Fiction and its ilk as a mainstream story telling medium.

I loved comics ever since i could make sense of colors. I grew up with Amar Chitra Katha, Chacha Chaudhury , Phantom, Mandrake etc. being duly provided to an indian audience by a diamond comics or an indrajal comics.


There were the high end stuff like Archies, Disney stuff and i think one called Dalton Comics which republished DC characters like Superman / batman and superboy

then one day it all vanished. All you could find were the uber expensive Asterix and Tintin comic books on newsstands. Could it be that the market for comics vanished overnight.

I think not. Raj comics and its hindi heartland panderings to ripped off Marvel/DC characters still sells. We have Gotham Comics picking up the slack where Dalton Comics left off. Aha! we also have Spiderman India 🙂

But seriously what does the public think of comics as such. Would an indian ever view Art Spigelmann’s masterpiece “Maus” as a serious work of literature or marvel (pun not intended) at the magnificience of storytelling of “Sandman : Preludes and Nocturnes”

We still view comics as banal. May be the canteen frequenting / gold flake chhotta smoking budding intellectual is ashamed to be viewed as someone who still reads the purile juvenile stuff… aha! there in lies the conundrum. I have been an indie comics creator for around two years now. I have never experienced a medium that gives you so much freedom in storytelling be it serious or humorous

In my mind comic books / graphic novels get the best of both worlds in terms of books and movies. On one hand you have the leisure of a novel writer to pace and set your characters just where you want them and on the other you have the added advantage of a movie maker to put visual clues (refering to the age old maxim a picture is worth a thousand words 🙂 )

I buy indian comic books whenever i can find them. Recently i picked up an issue of Bollywood : The Chase from Orchid Graphics. The product was visually slick but suffered from dearth of content depth. It featured a saif ali khan look alike for a hero who did everything but sing and dance. I shall still buy the next one though 🙂

For example, we invented the brooding angry young man and RGV Film Factory produces much grittier stuff every mnth than Frank miller can think of in a lifetime.. still we have no graphic novels in that mode. It pains me a lot. How would I love to pick up a comic book based in India with Indian characters and featuring the same depth and diversity of content as do our films and books. There is much room here for creativity.

If you are like me & like the escapism and fantasy that comic books offer, do take a moment to raise your voice and be heard. It is high time india got its own in terms of the graphic story telling medium. If you are a creator do think about doing your next piece in this medium and I would love to hook up with an artist for some ideas I am kicking around…

till next time

Biff! Zap! Kapow! and up up & away!

mohaps

Indian Superman

This Version – From South india- Is VERY hard to find. Superman Looks Like ELVIS in this one! Classic NTR… check out the … err.. very very BUXOM “Lois Lane” and the “cutting edge” special effects. And catchy song too…

yentamma bullama shitamma chandrama supermannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn
chikki chikki bumm bumm supermannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

I laughed so hard I was f**kin weeping.

The Hunt for the Briar Pipe in Kolkata

I made a trip to Calcutta from 24th-26th Jan mainly for my visa application and also to attend the wedding of a friend.

I used to live in Calcutta during my first job (1999-2000) and it was a mized bag going to Calcutta again.

Try as I might I can never make sense of Calcutta nor make up my mind about the city.

On one hand you see filth and squalor. The grime sticks to you every hour you spend outdoors and the streets are overcrowded.

On the other, the city has a charm of its own. Just walking up and down the pavement from Rabindra Sadan to Esplanade and back you meet such a different cross section of people that it blows your mind. I love just walking around, haggling with the street vendors and buying stuff I am probably never going to use 😀

This time I had some time to kill before I collected my passport from the consulate and decided I shall hunt for a Briar Pipe and spent much time walking around, asking about where I can find it.

After a couple of hours of walking around, during which I found out assorted pirated pornography CD vendors, miniature handcrafted bongs (pun not intended) and pipes and about ten different varieties of BB guns/pistols, I finally followed a solid lead from the Bong (pun again not intended) Vendor into New Market located near Esplanade (or ‘Splanede as a Kolkata resident refered it to).

After some walking around and evading umpteen saree, salwar and gift shops selling porcelain curios, I finally managed to find an old fashioned Tobacconist shop called “TC Dutt – premier tobacconist and toys”.

They had a display of a large collection of pipes and cigarette holders from all over the world. I bought a Briar Pipe made of Burma Teak and some other gift items for my co-workers at dimdim ( I am leaving India soon and this seemed like the perfect place to pick up some going away gifts).

As is my habit I struck up a conversation with Mr. Dutt Jr. the grandson of the shop’s founder. We talked about pipes, tobacco blends and the death of the pipe smoker as most people switched either to cigarettes or gave up smoking.

In a blatant move to wring out some nostalgia discount, I told him a made up story about how the pipe was to be a gift for my grandfather who was a captain in the british army (this part is true. but my grandfather was a non-smoker and died three years ago).

Anyways we chatted about stuff and he ended up giving me a 30% discount on two briar pipes and two pouches of tobacco.

All in all that was the highlight of my stay at calcutta this time. I do feel a tad guilty about ripping Mr. Dutt with the cock and bull story about my grandpa, but I think it was worth it.