Ashok Banker Retells Lord Ram’s Tale Through Graphic Novel

Ashok Banker, author of the eight-volume “Ramayana Series”, has now used the graphic medium to retell the tale of Lord Ram.

“Prince of Dharma”, according to Banker, is a pared-down, visually lavish sequential version of the novel.

“Readers daunted by the prospect of reading eight books of over 500 pages each can dive right into this adaptation and enjoy the same story. For graphic novel fans like myself, it is wonderful seeing these timeless characters illustrated so beautifully,” he says.

The graphic novel is published by Campfire and has illustrations by award-winning artist Sachin Nagar.

Author and screenwriter Banker’s writing spans across genres of crime thrillers, essays, literary criticism and fiction but he is most widely credited for his mythological retellings of Indian epics, starting with the eight-volume “Ramayana Series”.

Nagar uses a semi-realistic style to make the characters and the scenes more impactful and visual.

On why he took the graphic medium, Banker says, “The graphic novel is often known as sequential art. It’s an independent form of storytelling that uses a combination of visuals and words in a particular sequence, with the creative utilisation of space and color and form.

“Look at Sachin Nagar’s gorgeous art in this book. That’s reason enough for me! It’s a film with unlimited budget, memorable characters, visual effects and action set pieces.”

The author says when he began writing his Ramayana Series in the 1990s, publishers refused to even consider the manuscripts.

“Their logic was that nobody would want to read these stories they already knew so well. But I found, over my lifetime, that most Indians, even educated people, hadn’t actually read the original Valmiki or Kamban retellings,” he says.

“As a non-Hindu, I was curious enough to read them as child first, and I felt it was time to retell these stories in a new way for the present age. It all began with a creative vision of a great and timeless tale with so many nuances that few people knew about,” he says.

“I think the same fascination that drew me to the epic continues to draw readers even today. These are our shared culture, our heritage, Hindu or non-Hindu. This is India at its core, for better or worse,” he adds.

Asked how different it was writing for a graphic representation, Banker says, “Nagar’s amazing artistic interpretations of the characters and the world made it worthwhile. I doubt that my Ramayana Series’ will ever be adapted successfully for the screen, so this is the closest readers can get to experiencing it as a visual experience. It helps that the core story is so great.”

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