NEW DELHI: Author and screenwriter Ashok K Banker's sweep encompasses mythology, crime thrillers, essays, literary criticism and fiction. He's also collaborated with DC Comics for graphic novels and has now turned to the genre in India with "Prince of Ayodhya" an adaptation of the first book of his eight-part "Ramayana" series.
"Keep in mind that each of those books is over 500 pages long and is packed with incidents and events. I had to cut out several sub-plots and reduce the whole to about 170 pages of illustrated panels with minimal dialogue and narration. This is also the reason why the graphic novel may seem more attractive to many readers - it tells you the main points of the story while detailing the crucial events and moments, just like a film adaptation," the 55-year-old Banker, who has a staggering 70 books to his credit, told IANS in an email interview.
"This graphic novel only covers the plot of the first 'Ramayana' series books. Depending on reader response, the remaining seven books will be adapted as well to graphic novels," Banker explained.
Could you describe how you and the artist and colourist worked on the book. How long did it take from start to finish?
Noting that he'd written graphic novels for DC Comics and other international comic companies, as well as collaborating directly with artists on a book or two, Banker said: "There's always an equal balance, with a great deal of discussion and creative exchange between writer and artist, which is at is should be. In the case of (publisher) Campfire, I was only shown the final art after the book was completed."
"In fact, I only learned about the book's release a few days before the fact! I have to say that Sachin Nagar is an exceptional artist who did a remarkable job within the limitations imposed on him. Indian comic book artists are on par with the world's best and deserve their due. I would love to work with him in a more collaborative and equal manner," Banker added.
What is the targeted age-group? Tweens onwards or even people of my generation (I'm 67), some of whose knowledge of mythology is quite pathetic?
"Exactly. Everyone and anyone of all ages who wishes to read a ripping good mythological fantasy adventure. The 'Ramayana', like all the world's ancient epics, is timeless in its storytelling. There is scope for infinite retellings and variations, so long as one brings originality of vision and freshness of execution to the task.
"In this case, many people who don't wish to read a daunting novel several hundred pages long can pick up the graphic novel and dive right in. No prior knowledge required. And of course, if you've read all the 'Ramayans' out there, then you will probably enjoy this one even more - just as a song changes in the voices of different singers, or a sunset looks so different when photographed or painted by different artists," Banker explained.
Banker's novel is the most recent addition to Campfire's bestselling titles in the category where they largely publish Greek and Indian mythology. These retelling of the tales of Rama, Sita, Ravana, Karna and Draupadi are visually empowering, bringing forth very different perspectives of these characters than the ones we have often read of.
"Ravana: Roar of the Demon King", a story of a demon who dared to challenge the gods and almost got away with it, is an all-time bestselling title for Campfire. "Sita: Daughter of the Earth" is a touching tale of love, honour and sacrifice that reveals one woman's shining strength in an unforgiving world.
There is also a series on the Kauravas - "Draupadi: The Fire Born Princess" is the story of an astonishingly outspoken woman, abandoned at every turn, and forced to make the difficult choice between revenge and compassion.