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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

Ghost stories from small town India

Sneha Mahale, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, November 19, 2010
First Published: 13:47 IST(15/11/2010) | Last Updated: 19:11 IST(19/11/2010)

Do you believe in ghosts? Come summer 2011, get ready for some thrills and chills, as ghosts and spirits come to life in a graphic novel series. These stories, set in the contemporary Indian heartland, are a mix of fiction and real-life events and are as close to the real world as possible, given the subject matter.

The protagonist is a man whose job is to put the spirits of the recently dead to rest. “I’ve always tried to write the stories that I want to read myself. My own interests lie in varied genres and settings and that reflects in what I write,” says Saurav Mohapatra, who has worked with Virgin Comics and whose earlier graphic novels include Sadhu, India Authentic, Jimmy Zhingchak and Mumbai Macguffin.

Focus shift
The graphic novel series titled Dhurandhar is mostly set in small-town India and focuses on blue-collared workers. In keeping with this fact, trains play a big part in the plot, as the protagonist travels across India with the intention of helping spirits complete their last wishes.

It is an attempt to tell a story set in the “real world” of present day India with supernatural aspects. “It is more of a semi-urban fantasy/magic realism and its primary purpose is entertainment. I’m not out to score any points or push an agenda with it,” says Mohapatra. Most of the research for the various plots comes from the Internet and non-fiction books that deal with spirits as their
core setting.

Currently work on the first instalment, Man Who Rides Trains, an 84-page black and white original graphic novel, is underway. The artwork is by Siddharth Panwar. Mohapatra says, “Dhurandhar has a more traditional comic art style. Siddharth has really breathed into the characters. I consider my artist collaborators as co-creators on the respective titles. It’s as much theirs as it is mine.”

Mohapatra, who believes in ghosts himself, adds that his treatment for Dhurandhar has come of a weird zone. “Some of the characters were nailed in my head and the plot sequences followed that. Other times, I have a definite mood and progression for a particular arc in the plot and thus a character comes up in my mind to enhance that,” says Mohapatra. Dhurandhar will have a sequel, as Mohapatra is keen that his created “universe” carries on, and in the future, wants to work on a graphic novel about Natwarlal, the famous Indian con-man.

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What’s the plot
Twenty years ago, he came face to face with a devastating truth – we’re not alone. Overlapping with our world is another, the world of spirits. That fateful night, he lost everything that was dear to him. Tottering on the brink of insanity, torn apart by grief, he made himself a promise. From that day onwards, Damodar Dhurandhar has walked the path between the two worlds, to ensure that his gruesome fate never befalls another innocent – human or… spirit.


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