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Ali Baba in Mumbai

Classic story hero now an auto rickshaw driver, and the 40 thieves don stylish suits and carry guns in revamped graphic novel set in the metropolis.

books Updated: Jan 31, 2011 13:43 IST
Sneha Mahale

The world of Arabian Nights has given way to modern-day Mumbai. The children’s classic story, Ali Baba and The 40 Thieves, has been revamped to ‘suit’ today’s readers. In its graphic novel avatar that is titled Ali Baba Reloaded, the protagonist is no longer a merchant’s son who stumbles upon piles of treasure left behind by 40 thieves in a cave by saying the magic words, khul ja sim sim. He is instead an auto rickshaw driver in Mumbai struggling to make ends meet. Until, he meets some stylish goons who wear suits and carry guns.

“Stories are a part of oral tradition and an integral part of our childhood. They are told and retold, often with the motive to inculcate values during the formative years, and sometimes just to entertain. The Ali Baba story needed very little adaptation to fit it into the present social matrix. By using the same plot in a modern Indian setting, we are making it interesting and relevant to young people today,” says Andrew Dodd, editor-in-chief, Campfire India.

Mumbai was chosen as the setting as it is a cosmopolitan microcosm of the global picture. It’s full of drama, and has a throbbing identity of its own. “It also brought, into the narration, a touch of the familiarity,” says Dodd. The decision to work on the plot came as a result of discussions between the author, Poulomi Mukherjee and the Campfire editorial team. Once the broad concept was decided upon, Mukherjee completed the writing of the story before collaborating with the editors to finalise the finer points.

The art is crazy and colourful, to add to the chaos of Ali Baba’s life. “It’s an attempt to depict the impossible situations our hero finds himself in, and how a twist of events, a few good friends and presence of mind saves him, every time,” says Dodd.

The basic plot remains the same in this version. It is a story about courage, wit and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. “Only the men wear suits and carry guns, their chosen steed has wheels instead of legs,” says Dodd, who refuses to divulge more details on the thieves.

Ali, being an auto rickshaw driver, is symbolic of the common man who struggles to support his family. Ali Baba Revamped will hit stands in February.

What’s the plot?
In Ali Baba Reloaded, the protagonist, Ali, is an autorickshaw driver in Mumbai, who struggles to make a life for his family. He is hardworking and spirited and despite the drudgery and monotony of everyday life, has not managed to curb his sense of adventure. He lives by his wit and with a little help from others, manages to make a place for himself in the social world. That is till he meets 40 stylish thieves.

Campfire’s Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves Reloaded will be available at leading bookstore across India by February 22.

It can be pre-ordered on