• Sunday, April 19, 2015 - 05:30
“For war to be truly understood, one must start at the end. To see what it left behind,” says Hanuman in “Simian”, a graphic novel written and illustrated by film-maker Vikram Balagopal. The 30-year-old author recently won the Comic Con India award for the Best Graphic Novel published in 2014. “Simian”, published by Harper Collins Publishers India, was selected from a list of five graphic novels including “Nirmala” and “Normala”, “Rumi”, “Sholay” and “World War One.” Named after the scientific term used to refer to monkeys and apes, “Simian” is a trilogy and part 1 and 2 of the novel were launched in May 2014. “Simian explores the Ramayana from Hanuman’s point of view. Hanuman decides to give some advice to Bhima and he does it by narrating his experiences to the latter,” Balagopal tells The News Minute. For someone who grew up listening to stories about “Ramayana” and “Mahabharata” from his grandmother, writing on the subject came naturally to Balagopal. “The stories always fascinated me. As I grew up, I started asking questions and in a way, the story for my novel had been developing since my childhood,” he says. Turning his ideas into a graphic novel too was just an organic process. Balagopal, who pursued a film making program at the New York Film Academy, says, “I have learnt film making and I knew I could not put together all my material in 3 hours. So, I decided to work on a graphic novel.” As Balagopal was fond of sketching since childhood, but never took his talent seriously, his decision to create a graphic novel surprised him the most. It was an aesthetic decision on his part to make his illustrations for Simian in black and white. Born and brought up in Kerala, the author is now based-out of Delhi. He feels that the graphic novel market in India is a developing one and has tremendous growth potential. “I am thrilled to have won the Comic Con award. When more and more people attend such events, it encourages writers to come up with more and better work. And when we create good work, we create interest among a larger audience,” he says. Vikram Balagopal with Aabid Surti Both part 1 and 2 of the novel took Balagopal more than a year each to complete. About the final part of the novel, he however refuses to divulge much, except that “it is the conclusion to the entire story.” When asked whether he preferred being a film-maker or a graphic illustrator more, he says that though the medium is different, he is ultimately telling stories. But as soon as he wraps up the final part of “Simian”, he plans to return to film-making. (Pictures Courtesy of Vikram Balagopal)