There’s even more Ramayan and more Mahabharat headed your way. But before you despair of storytelling ever moving beyond the weight of our mythological past, Gotham Chopra, son of new age spiritualist Deepak Chopra, is looking for writers and illustrators who can do just that. “There’s still plenty of room to re-imagine the ‘same old mythologies’,” Chopra says. He completed a management buyout of Virgin Comics along with Suresh Seetharaman and Sharad Devarajan in 2008, and relaunched it as Liquid Comics (Devarajan and Seetharaman are now Liquid Comics CEO and president, respectively). And yes, his name was modified from the original Gautam; though he says it was partly for ease of pronunciation, it nevertheless remains a reflection of just how comic crazy Chopra has been most of his life.
Liquid Comics’ new online venture Graphic India ( www.graphicindia.com ) launched officially on 2 December and is an online portal which features free daily comic book chapters, updates, interviews with creators and graphic novel educational resources.
The aim is to find a genre that can speak for India’s unique sensibility in graphic novels, the way the manga speaks for the Japanese—in culture, language, form and style. “Our guys enjoy re-envisioning classics. These are archetypal stories. They’re eternal. Too often we’ve seen them retold ‘the same old way’. What’s exciting is to uncover complexities beyond the surface. Look at new mythologies—from Star Wars to Twilight, and the big superhero franchises; for the most part, they’re ‘chosen one’ stories. Batman and Iron Man are a lot like Buddha—guys who turn their backs on privilege to find true power in serving others...,” says Chopra. He also wants young Indians to look at graphic novels as “a real profession”, taking it beyond hobby writing.
Chopra will also use the portal to publish some of his own writing and graphic illustrations—his graphic novel The Sadhu, currently being made into a feature film, will be available online. It will also have animated shows in episodes, trading cards and related merchandise. Books available for free on the site will include Shekhar Kapur’s Devi and Ramayan 3392 AD (also being made into a film with Mandalay Entertainment) and Samit Basu’s UNHoli, illustrated by Jeevan J. Kang.
Shazam: A page from the quirky gangster adventure Mumbai Macguffin
From the new lot, the comic Mumbai Macguffin, a quirky gangster adventure by Saumin Patel and Saurav Mohapatra, will be soon be up on the site.
Two comics based on, and co-created with, actors Priyanka Chopra and Hrithik Roshan are in the pipeline as well. Graphic India hopes to become India’s premier graphic novel portal, and primarily tap into the wealth of mythology, story and folk tale that India is capable of spinning.
India, Chopra believes, has outsourced creativity enough, and it is time that Indians became owners, not co-creators of their stories.
Priyanka Chopra morphs into a Liquid Comics superheroine.
Says Devarajan: “The success of many of the artists who have worked with us is not in their drawing ability, but actually in the way they think and see the world. We have a very clear process of how we look for lateral thinking and give tests that try and determine how people are solving creative challenges and being innovative. We would trade a thousand artists who can ‘colour within the lines’ for one artist whose not afraid to ‘colour outside them’.”
With this in mind, Graphic India is on the quest for writers and illustrators who can take storytelling beyond the regular genres and formats.
Chopra says: “In general, that’s what we look for—thinkers, dreamers, believers in the idea that a good story can change the world. We want artists and writers who know that a pencil and a piece of paper have the power to move audiences. What could be more fun than asking these questions through zombies, vampires, superheroes and heroines—with masala flavouring!”
To this end, the site will host a “Create a Comic Contest” which features a contract to have the book published and an award of Rs 1 lakh. Twenty new and specially commissioned graphic novels will be featured online by 2012; writers will be given contracts but copyright for financed and published works will remain with Liquid Comics.
To participate in the Graphic India Comic Contest or submit your work, visit www.graphic india.com. The contest is open till 15 March.