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Saturday, June 7, 2008


At the outset,let me make a confession of sorts.I have never been much of a graphic novel guy,or indeed a comic-book enthusiast.
It is only very recently that I have been initiated in this strange and wonderful world,(courtesy a comic-book nerd friend at college)where I read and enjoyed books like 300,V for Vendetta,Maus and more of their ilk.

I had read about Kari,a graphic novel by upcoming writer-illustrator Amruta Patil.(Yes,she dons both hats)But what are the odds of finding a graphic novel in dear old sleepy Ranchi(that's where I live when I'm not in college,that is),where even relatively commonplace writers are sometimes infuriatingly difficult to find?

Or so I thought.There it was,in all its slim red-and-black glory,at a new bookstore I had been patronizing of late.Anyway,enough about how I got my hands on the book.
The novel itself is an intense, retrospective, often troublingly honest work.There are many striking metaphors used to bring out the seedy,lonely side of that huge,sweating, panting entity called Mumbai.

The narrative follows Kari, a young woman working as a small-time copywriter, her troubled relationship with her lover Ruth, and her struggle with the loneliness at the heart of this heartless city.

I particularly liked the constant referral 'smog city', especially after Kari falls into a sewer, literally in the bowels of the city,acquiring "A black Trinity-like PVC outfit".She then makes it a nightly ritual,as a "boatman", rowing through the black waters,doing her bit to purge the city of its filth,perhaps to cleanse herself of the loneliness and despair that is the city's gift to her.

In a poignant yet funny moment, Kari's roommate exclaims during a TV ad, "That's my ad! I'm Aishwarya's feet!"

The vignette mode of storytelling works well for Patil, and she uses colour very intellligently, in a book which is dominated by black-and white frames.Her pictures often do speak louder than a thousand words.
I suppose an argument could be made against the loose ends, a bit of over-sentimentalization at times , and the somewhat ambiguous ending of the novel.But judged in its entirety,it is a deeply engrossing work,even more so if you consider that it is a debut novel.

The very first frame of the book where Ruth and Kari sit together, an umbilical cord between them, told me that I just had to take this book home.(Umbilical is also the name of a chapter in the book,and the name of Amruta's blog.)And I was right.

Currently,she is working on another graphic novel called Parva-the Epic which has the Mahabharata at its core, and 1999 a novel.If this debut is anything to go by, great things are to be expected from this clearly talented young author.

P.S. I was delighted to find Kari reading Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces" in a frame......a book which I enjoyed immensely!

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