11 May, 2021

Strokes Of Subversion

Still a niche genre, graphic novels give space to fringe discourse. And find an audience.

Sanjay Rawat
Strokes Of Subversion

A crowd gathers in front of an electronic store to watch TV screens blare out the latest news on bomb blasts ripping through ‘Zamzamabad’, while Amitabh Kumar’s ‘Helmet Man’ looks on. The city is tense, phone lines become jammed, anxiety mounts, and soon after, a young man is arrested at the local barber shop. In another corner of the graphic novel universe, Malik Sajad, a Kashmiri artist, steps into a Delhi cyber cafe after blasts rock the city, and is immediately suspected of being a terrorist. The cafe’s customers surround him, demanding to see his “identity proof” while the owner calls the cops. Real life was rich research material!

As Indians get used to living with terror, navigating their lives around bomb blasts, and paranoia seeps into drawing-room conversations, several graphic novelists are exploring different facets of this “new normal”. “Visual literature”, according to graphic novelist Sarnath Banerjee, lends itself to an “emotional rather than...

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