In May 2001, Delhi was ravaged by a strange creature, who went about raising havoc on rooftops. Christened Monkey Man, the mysterious mischief monger continues to arouse interest a decade later in people like filmmaker Abhishek Sharma, who decided to pen down his first book on what he likes to call, “India’s biggest urban legend”.
Sharma says, “The Monkey Man never got his due. He was neglected. There was a buzz when he was around, but it died out too soon. Even 10 years later, there’s lots to the monster that needs to be explored. My genre grows with time — satire is a mature experiment, unlike rage that is superficial.”
With a penchant for terrifying subjects, Sharma was also the mind behind the dark comedy, Tere Bin Laden (2010). “I think the best way to deal with such matters is to laugh them off or mock them. That’s what I did with Osama in my film and now with Monkey Man,” he insists.
His 60-page debut graphic novel, titled Munkeeman, will be launched at the city’s first Comic Con on October 22. Ask him why he chose the half-man, half-ape as his protagonist and he says, “There’s a serious dearth of Indian superheroes. The Munkeeman is funny and tragic at once. I was in Delhi when the Monkey Man made news, hurt people and killed others. Still, he was more amusing than terrifying. He was an enigma. Till date, some call it fact, others a hoax. So in the book, he’s a social misfit and his only superpower is his twisted mind.”
Sharma reveals that the book is a bit darker than his debut film, and his hero is a tragic-comic superhero. “The tragedy of the situation is in-built. Even if he tries saving a girl from drowning, the media reports news about him trying to drown a girl,” explains the 33-year-old filmmaker-turned-graphic novelist. In the book, Sharma too makes a cameo in the first few pages as the storyteller. “But the story is about him. It’s not mine or the media’s or the society’s,” he adds.
Ask him how a filmmaker traversed into the graphic novel territory and Sharma feels the two mediums are very connected. “Both are visuals forms of storytelling. And the audience is the same — 13 years and more.”
So does he plan to carry on the monkey business? “I plan to make Munkeeman into a series, bringing in a new novel and new set of adventures every few months. But it all depends on how well it goes down with the audience and whether the monkey man decides to attack me or not.”