literary awards

Comic Con India awards: And the Best Graphic Novel nominees are…

One work of fiction, one based on mythology, one on a mystic poet, one adapted from cinema, and one a telling of history.

Comic Con India was inaugurated in India in 2011, and has attracted comics fans from all over the country to its events in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore. Aside from its regular cosplay competitions, it also gives out awards to the most notable comics work done in India each year. Last year’s nominees have just been announced; here’s your rough guide to the five graphic novels in the running to win the award for the Best Graphic Novel published in 2014.

Nirmala and Normala, Penguin

Written by Sowmya Rajendra and illustrated by Niveditha Subramaniam, this is the only nomination for best graphic novel this year entirely by women, and with a contemporary theme. It is a satirical commentary on the representation of women in Bollywood, using a comparison between twin characters Nirmala and the cheekily named Normala.

The novel uses one of the oldest tropes in popular Indian cinema – twins separated at birth – to comic effect. The absurdity of the film-star Nirmala’s existence is juxtaposed with the realistic life of Normala, a reflection of the reader (or at least somebody the reader is likely to know). For example, Nirmala has an admirer who is obsessed with her, a situation that is unquestioned and even encouraged in  Bollywood. But the man obsessed with Normala is jailed for stalking her.

Simian, HarperCollins

Written and illustrated in black-and-white by Vikram Balagopal, this is a meditation on war. It straddles the two major Hindu epics: it is about the Ramayana, but with the Mahabharata as its setting. Bhim comes across an unwell monkey and then realises it is none other than Hanuman himself. The two then settle down for a night of conversation about war, which is, of course, one of the central concerns that binds the two epics together so strongly.

This fraternity is mirrored in the characters of Bhim and Hanuman, who are both sons of Vayu. Balagopal uses this framing to re-tell the story of Ram from Hanuman’s point of view, and challenges the idea that Hanuman didn’t question Ram or Sugriv’s actions. His cover artwork for this book is much acclaimed, and is outstanding.

Rumi, Sufi Comics

This is the only nominee in this category that combines comics and poetry. The publishers, Bangalore-based Sufi Comics, make comics exclusively in order to help the reader better understand Islam. It is no surprise, then, that they have adapted into the comic form the verse of the beloved 13th century mystic poet, Rumi, and eleven stories based on his life.

The adaptation includes the original Persian text, along with translations by Andrew Harvey. Sufi Comics founders and acclaimed writers Mohammad Ali Vakil and Mohammad Ali Arif where involved in choosing the stories to include and in editing the book. Bangalore-based comics artist Rahil Mohsin has illustrated the book, and Muqtar Ahmed has done the calligraphy.

Sholay, Graphic India

It’s been over thirty years since the iconic film was first released, but its staying power is unabated. This graphic adaptation of the film is the first of its kind, and is a collector’s item for anyone who is crazy about the film. The telling of the actual story of Sholay itself – the hiring of two ne’er-do-well petty criminals in order to combat the menace of a powerful local dacoit – is reprodued faithfully, frame by frame, with no changes of any significance. The publisher’s other Sholay-based graphic novel, Gabbar, can be read as a companion piece to this one. Sholay is also being animated for television by Graphic India in collaboration with POGO.

World War One, Campfire

What was it like in the trenches of the First World War? Alan Coswill and Lalit Kumar Sharma attempt to answer this question with their writing and art, respectively, for this graphic novel. Millions of young men from thirty different countries fought during this war, and it is from the soldier’s point of view that the story is told. It begins with Franz Ferdinand’s assassination in 1914, and goes on to explore in vivid detail the horrors and heartbreak of war.

The script and art have tackled the difficult task of capturing the sheer scale of the First World War in a relatively short space. The novel explores the psychological aftermath of the war, for those soldiers who survived it.

The other nominations:

Best Pencilller/Inker/Penciller-Inker Team
Gowra Hari Perla, KAKAA Fableri
Abhijeet Kini, Holy Hell, Meta Desi Vol. 2
Zoheb Momin, Item Dhamaka
Harsho Mohan, Hyderabad: A Graphic Novel
Harsho Mohan, Aghrori 11
Lalit Kumar Sharma and Jagdish Kumar, World War One
Sachin Nagar, Kaurava Empire Vol. 1
Sachin Nagar, Kaurava Empire Vol. 2
Harsho Mohan, Chakrapurer Chakkare
Sabu Sarasan, Ayodhya Kand
Zoheb Akbar and Arijit Dutta Chowdhury, Jatayu and Nandi (Divine Beings)

Best Colourist
Sanman Mohita, Futile, Blind Spot
Vipul Bhandari, Cross Hair, Blind Spot
R. Kamath and Prabhu, Item Dhamaka
Neeraj Menon, Hyderabad: A Graphic Novel
Prasad Patnaik, Aghori 11
Sachin Nagar, Kaurava Empire Vol. 1
Sachin Nagar, Kaurava Empire Vol. 2
Vijay Sharma and Pradeep Sherawat, World War One
B. Meenakshi and Pragati Agrawal, Space Doughtnut, Tinkle 276

Best Cover
Abhijeet Kini, Ground Zero #2
Sumit Kumar, Parshu Warriors
Sumit Kumar, Devi Chaudhrani
Mukesh Singh, Ravanayan Finale Part 2
Rahil Mohsin, Rumi, Sufi Comics
Priya Kurien, Bookasura
Culpeo S. Fox, The Fox and the Crow 

Best Writer
Alan Cowsill, World War One
Rajani Thindiath, Dreams: My World in My Head, Tinkle Holiday Special 41
Lewis Helfland, They Changed the World

Best Continuing Graphic Series
Chiyo, Tinkle Digest
Ravanayan, Holy Cow
Beast Legion
Dental Diaries, Tinkle 

Best Illustrated Children's Book
Tinkle Digest 276, Tinkle
Pashu, Puffin
The Fox and the Crow, Karadi Tales
Malgudi School Days, Puffin

Best Children's Writer
Sean D'Mello, Tantri the Mantri: The Dream Team, Tinkle Tall Tales 4
Ruskin Bond, With Love from the Hills
Arundhati Venkatesh, Bookasura
Devdutt Pattnaik, Pashu
Harini Gopalswami Srinivasan, Ayodhya Kand

Best Publication for Children
Tinkle Holiday Special 41
Tinkle Digest 273
CN Remix, Pepper Script
Bookasura, Scholastic
Ayodhya Kand, ACK

Lifetime Achievement Award
Aabid Surti

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