TVF’s Arunabh Kumar, who is famous for his web series, including Panchayat, has embraced storytelling in a new format – comic books.
As co-founder and CEO at Indusverse Pvt. Ltd., a new comic book company with partners Alok Sharma and Saumin Patel, Kumar intends to “empower artists and writers from India to tell stories that will showcase Indian culture and history to the whole world and also transcend across media”.
“I have always loved reading comics. To the extent that I failed one academic year because of extensively reading comics and not the fat course books. It was like getting teleported to another dimension, which was much more fun than the gruelling hours of studying for engineering. That experience of reading comics has stayed with me. Years later, when we were carving out new ways to tell contemporary stories at TVF, I got to evolve as a storyteller. Indusverse is just a natural progression of taking the idea of creating contemporary stories to the next level,” Kumar told indianexpress.com in an exclusive interview.
It was In 2016 that Kumar met Sharma, who once headed Graphic India, and had even worked with the iconic homegrown brand Raj Comics. Sharma introduced Kumar to Patel, who has worked with ace Bollywood directors like Sriram Raghavan and Ashutosh Gowariker and on international brands such as Image Comics.
“During a chance meeting with Alok (Sharma), we talked about how the Indian comic book culture was almost dying. And what I liked the most about Saumin (Patel)was his desire to create the best-looking comic books from India,” said Arunabh.
Together, the trio is looking at a revival of the comic book scene in India. “The number of comics sold compared to the 80s might be very less and the audience now has many different choices available for entertainment. The comic book culture in India is going through a slow yet steady revival. The audience may be limited but there is a vibrant range of comics being created by indigenous creators,” said Patel, who works as the chief design officer and is an illustrator.
According to Kumar, the “core idea” behind Indusverse, which was launched in February 2020, is to establish a studio that will bring to life contemporary stories that are ambitious and entertaining. “We want our books to be like the entire season of a show and are aiming 100 pages or more for each.”
Comic book artist and CCO (chief creative officer) Sharma believes the medium’s advantage is “phenomenal”. “Comics are the most democratic medium where creators can tell stories in a vivid range of genres and subjects with no limit to their imagination. That’s a huge advantage for readers to explore tales created by the most fertile minds around.
Meanwhile, among their first offerings is a box set titled Year Zero. The first issue from the set of three, #TheBeginning, is about a female superhero based in Goa who fights for nature. Created by Kumar and writer-actor Lianne Texeira Singh, it pays tribute to late fashion designer Wendell Rodricks’ environmental efforts.
“His efforts to save the 200-year-old mango tree or 100-year-old chapel in Colvale were so inspiring that we decided to include him and his crusade as a character in our first comic book,” said Kumar.
While the second, Outrage, has a Dalit character, the third, Stunt, features a minority protagonist. “Being a visual medium, comics and graphic novels act as a boost to the imagination of readers. Our themes, characters, settings are all relatable to the current generation,” commented Kumar.
While comics came into existence for mainly delivering an entertaining reading/watching experience to its audience with funny stories, gag-based ideas, eerie and sci-fi ideas, it has evolved into a medium to tell stories in its own unique way, says Patel.
But can graphic novels and comics hold out an universal appeal? “Our audience is everyone who would like to read such stories regardless of age or gender. Some of the themes are more suited for kids above 13 years. Nowadays, many institutions like the Jadhavpur University use graphic novels in their curriculum. Also, thanks to the resurgence and newfound interest in the medium, graphic novels are slowly becoming mainstream, though it will be a while before they are considered ‘serious reading’. That has been the case abroad as well – after Maus (the only Pulitzer winning graphic novel) no graphic narrative was accepted as an entry for the Pulitzers,” said Sharma.
For Kumar, the value remains in the content. “There will be creators and there will be consumers. Writers will thrive and produce works which will be read in various or different formats. It is also important to cater to a newer and younger audience. Before the Harry Potter series became popular, it was just a book written by a writer. The moment it found its audience, Harry Potter became a phenomenon. There are plenty of such examples. So there will always be stories and readers are always willing to get surprised,” he signed off.
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