Mani Ratnam rekindled interest by the blurring lines between hero and antihero with his 2010 drama, Raavan. Now, a host of artists and filmmakers are turning to see the light on the dark side. Joining Shah Rukh Khan’s sci-fi adventure RA.One and Campfire’s latest graphic novel, Ravana: Roar of the Demon king, is Ravanayan, which deals with the psyche of the ten-headed mythical figure.
The newest attempt to retell Valmiki’s classic epic from its antagonist’s point of view is by graphic artist Vivek Goel and writer Vijayendra Mohanty. “We wanted to do something offbeat in mythology. We’ve grown up listening to stories of good and evil, so we wanted to look beyond the Gods and feature the baddies in our novel,” says Mohanty, who started work on Ravanayan back in 2009.
After meeting on an email group called Bombay Comic Club, the duo decided to write a book on Duryodhan, but settled for Ravana since he had more “mass appeal”. Since then, they’ve been busy recreating mythology. “It’s a nicely written story,” says Mohanty, adding, “Ravanayan is a re-imagined version of the Ramayan.” Ask how it’ll be different from Campfire’s story, and he’s quick to reply. “I haven’t read it yet, but from the look of it, the two novels are very different.
Vivek, the graphic artist of our novel, has a style that is very close to that seen in American superhero comics,” he says. No wonder then, Ravana looks closer to Star Wars’ Darth Vader. “Campfire’s novel is a chronological account of Ravana from cradle to grave, but we look at his psyche,” adds Goel. Besides the story, the physical appearances of most characters too have been re-imagined. Ravana is a handsome young man with flowing locks of white hair, while Ram dons a shabby, unkempt look. “White represents elegance and royalty. Ravana here is clean-shaven, without the clichéd moustache,” says the artist Goel, adding with a laugh, “As forest dwellers, Ram and Laxman could not shave every day.”
The first issue of the 10-part graphic novel on the epic tale hits shelves this week and the writers plan to release one issue every month. “It was quite challenging as very little has been written about Ravana’s childhood, so we’ve taken some liberties and spun some adventures,” adds Goel. So is it safe to say that Ravana is the hero of this series? “We are not trying to make a divine comparison between Ravana and Ram. The series depicts the psyche and making of Ravana, something we haven’t read before. The point is that they are not so different, yet they make different choices.”