The Indian comic book market is getting ready to take a contemporary look at the country’s mythology, thanks to both Indian and foreign authors. So we will soon have a Panchatantra or Ramayana, with a sprinkling of — guess what — Harry Potter.
Around 200 BC, Vishnu Sharma reportedly wrote the animal stories we know as the Panchatantra fables. Two millennia later, Samit Basu, author of The Simoqin Prophecies, will be writing End Of Story, which adapts those tales for a modern audience, with artwork by PC Vikram.
Describing what will make End of Story unique, Basu says: “The fantasy approach we’re taking will have the animals conspiring with their chosen boy hero to tackle today’s corporate villains.”
Basu has also incorporated and parodied pop culture references like Harry Potter. No copyright issues there? “We’ve done it very slyly. The references are not overt but I’m hoping readers will catch them.” Basu is among several domestic and international writers working on contemporary takes on Indian mythology and fables.
Director Shekhar Kapur and new-age guru Deepak Chopra are scripting Ramayana 3392 AD, which transposes gods and goddesses from the popular epic into the distant future.
Ramayana 3392 AD and End of Story are both set for release by British entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Animation, which set up base in Bangalore in December last year. The artwork will be by Alex Ross.
Another planned Virgin comic title is Devi, again to be written by Basu. Athough he did not work on Devi’s first two issues, Basu will pick up the plot and collaborate with artist Mukesh Singh.
With the surfeit of films, television series and books inspired by India’s folk tales, how well will comics do when released in India next month?
“We’ve borrowed heavily from India’s rich tradition of stories about heritage and mythology but we’ve made the plots contemporary,” says Samarjit Chowdhury, vice president, Virgin Animation.
“And we’re not directing the comics at the Indian market alone, we’re also aiming for the global audience, which doesn’t know much about India’s heritage.” Not too long ago Kalpana Swaminathan and Ishrat Syed, who write under the combined pseudonym.