From questioning societal conventions to embracing culture, these five graphic novels tackle important subjects with compelling visuals, nuanced writing, and wit. By Paridhi Badgotri
Graphic novels are witnessing a rapid surge in popularity in India, finally echoing trends in the West. Visual narratives pave the way for both old and new ideas to reach a wider audience. They can reimagine classic fables for the modern world or offer original takes in easily accessible forms. Either way, they bring innovation and new appeal to storytelling.
While graphic novels may be enjoying attention and creating new markets of readers in the country, Indian narratives don’t enjoy a huge slice of the pie. And it’s a pity because there are some groundbreaking works out there! Kunzum presents five such Indian graphic novels to add to your collection. All of them, and more, are available at Kunzum bookstores.
An Indian Graphic Novel Reading List
A Gardener in the Wasteland, story by Srividya Natarajan & art by Aparajita Ninan
In 1873, Jyotirao Phule challenged Brahminical hegemony by writing Gulamgiri. His witty attack on the Vedas as an upper-caste fantasy for enslaving shudras and atishudras enjoys a new lease of life in the hands of Srividya Natarajan and Aparajita Ninan. This graphic novel is a call to reaffirm Phule’s ideals that are still relevant today.
Kari, written and illustrated by Amruta Patil
This book announced a new and powerful voice in the field of Indian graphic novels. Kari starts with the attempted double suicide of a pair of lovers—both women—but centres for the most part on the alienation that one of them, Kari, feels in a heteronormative society. Suffused with a deep sense of melancholy, Patil’s illustrations are peppered with a wry commentary on love and life in a big busy city.
Delhi Calm, written and illustrated by Vishwajyoti Ghosh
Delhi Calm is a graphic novel that reimagines the Delhi of the 1970s, one of the most influential decades in Indian history. Vishwajyoti Ghosh juxtaposes the idea of democracy in Indian society and the power of the State that forces people to live a particular way of life. The question of the dreams of an egalitarian society comes alive through Ghosh’s graphics.
Panchali: The Game of Dice, written by Sibaji Bandyopadhyay, illustrated by Sankha Banerjee
Panchali transfers our collective imagination of the epic, The Mahabharata, into something tangible. Its rendition of the infamous gambling episode portrays the trickery, obsession, rage, and deceit of the original story with electrifying visuals. The book is a startling depiction of the event that leads to one of the most remarkable wars in Indian mythology.
Doab Dil, written and illustrated by Sarnath Banerjee
Sarnath Banerjee employs a philosopher’s perspective and an artist’s creativity in his graphic novel, Doab Dil. It takes the reader to a place of pensive questions about our existence―a place where two rivers (Do ab) meet. With the convergence of rivers, it signifies the meeting point of words and illustrations, and fiction and non-fiction.