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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Surrealism in speech bubbles

Jairaj Singh, Hindustan Times   September 08, 2012
First Published: 01:11 IST(8/9/2012) | Last Updated: 13:55 IST(8/9/2012)

Pao The Anthology of Comics 1
Pao Collective
Penguin Books
Rs 799 n pp 301

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For years now, the media has been officially declaring the dawn of a new era in Indian comic book culture. But despite the launch of numerous titles, conventions and magazines, the practice of the art form that intersperses text, drawing and photography to tell a story, has not only been scattered, it has lacked wisdom. It is no surprise then that comic books have never been taken seriously by the mainstream, are often dismissed as being low on literary merit, and accused of being a bastard medium with an unconventional taste for design and speech bubbles.

But times are changing. Close on the heels of Blaft’s Obliterary Journal comes the outstanding anthology from the Pao Collective. Here, you not only have the old guard comprising Sarnath Banerjee, Orijit Sen, Vishwajyoti Ghosh and Raj Comics jostling for panels, but newer nameslike Vidyun Sabhaney, Pia Hazarika and Sanjay Ghosh, who bring fresh perspective. Also on board are well-known writers Samit Basu and Ambarish Satwik. Together, they offer a wide range of graphic tales including a lost episode of the Mahabharata retold in manga (the Japanese comic book art form) with a hold-your-belly-and-laugh wit, and a story about establishing contact with aliens through a fiction contest. Other stories feature a man who turns into a flamingo and nostalgia for the first Nike shoes in Pre-liberalised India. The collection is glued together with stunning and, in some cases, surreal art. What the collection misses out on is a non-fiction narrative. One hopes future editions will take care of that. All in all, Pao is a must for those who want an introduction to Indian comics and a glimpse of what the future holds. A collection that is long overdue.

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