Monday, 11 August 2014

Kim's Review : Devi 1, 2 & 3- Shekhar Kapur's Graphic Novel

When Virgin comics launched itself in 2006, their brief was to create Graphic novels with original story lines, that were Indian culture based, but for the international market. the company itself was a collaboration between Richard Branson's Virgin Group (Virgin Airlines, Virgin music etc), acclaimed movie director Shekhar Kapur, spiritual Guru Deepak Chopra (and his son Gotham) and Gotham Entertainment Group (South Asia's largest comics publisher)

They created 4 distinct lines of comics.

Director's cut for Directors to get into print, projects that may not have been viable on the big screen. Collaborators here include : Shekhar Kapur, Guy Ritchie and John Woo.

Voices / Maverick line to feature new talent and collaborations with actors and musicians. The line's first release was written by Eurythmics frontman Dave Stewart.

The Shakti line featuring Indian mythology, art, history, classical stories, and other related themes, often with a modern twist. This is the line that debuted with "Devi" and "The Sadhu"

And Others to tap into innovative creators in comics, film and entertainment from around the world.

While created by Virgin Comics, they soon went out of circulation in India, but some of these Graphic Novels are now published in India by Westland & Graphic India (who made the pages smaller, the paper less glossy, but seem have kept the colour and print quality intact - to my unprofessional eyes). And Virgin Comics has been remodelled as Liquid Comics.

Devi features "a modern take on a very ancient myth", in which the title character Devi becomes a "warrior of the light" after the pantheon of gods rebirth her in response to "the rapid decay of the city of Sitapur" caused by "fearsome renegade god Bala."

Each book is divided into 5 parts / chapters and the entire series has had a couple of different authors. the first 2 parts were written by Siddharth Kotian. 3 - 10 were written by Samit Basu (whose Gameworld Trilogy, I simply adored) and 11-15 (maybe ~20 too)have been written by Saurav Mohapatra who is the author of Mumbai Confidential and has converted the Bengali classic Chander Paher / Moon Mountain into a Graphic Novel for kids.

The artists of the series so far, include - Mukesh Singh, Aditya Chari, Saumin Patel, Siddharth Kotian and Edison George.

Devi - Part 1 starts with the origins.

Bodha is the King / Father of the Gods. During the second century of Mankinds arrival on Earth, Bala - one of Bodha's sons, rejects the old ways of the Pantheon and forces mankind to worship him, he feeds off that and becomes too powerful for the pantheon to take him on.

The Gods then all sacrifice a part (power) of themselves to create an entity who is - "Devi"!

Devi is placed among the Durapasya clan - warrior/priests who fight alongside the pure Gods and she leads an Army of Goda & Warriors against Bala. She wins, but just as she is about to kill him, Bodha steps in to save his sons life and instead imprisons him in what he hopes is a secure location - Jwala - the prison of Fire & Stone, deep within the Earth.

To prevent another incident of a God getting too egoistical and powerful, Devi is awakened in a mortal woman who will die, each time her mission is accomplished and lie dormant until she needs to be brought back to life again.

Cut to present day and Bala is threatening to raise his ugly head again in the fictional town of Sitapur. And Tara Mehta is destined to be the Devi for this Generation. Tara is currently dating Iyam (one of Bala's generals) unaware of her potential, the Durapasya ae looking for her, they intend to sacrifice her life, so the Devi can inhabit her body (as they have done for centuries), but Agantuk - one of the priests, believes that they should let the human Tara live and the Devi and her share the body.

Through a series of events, the priests are unable to kill the mortal Tara before the Devi inhabits her body and with the help of Inspector Rahul Singh, she temporarily defeats Bala's army and leaves the Durapasya behind to manage on her own and take her own decisions.

 The artwork is brilliant, very well thought out and you should definitely read the notes and sketchbook at the end to see how Devi's look was conceptualised.

Devi - Part 2 has Bala playing a more prominent role and there seems to be trouble in the ranks of his followers, with each one battling for supremacy and some of them involved in Double Crosses.

Devi & Tara learn to share their body and the mind. Devi starts to trust Tara's judgement more and Tara realises that she can use Devi's powers to do good. Devi's judgements and actions are tempered by Tara's emotions.

However, it is Tara's emotions that leave them devastated in the end, inspite of her almost vanquishing Bala, who is again saved by Bodha.

Bodha wants to take Devi back to the Citadel in Akarshit, but Devi & Tara decide to stay behind to right the many injustices on Earth.

Most of the Chapters in Part 2 have outdoor locations and the architecture that has been conceptualised is complex and beautiful.

Devi - Part 3 starts with a lovely explanation by Shekhar Kapur on how Devi was conceptualised. This is the book, where the story reveals its roots with the backgrounds of Tara, Kratha (the Apsara Assassin) and Inspector Rahul Singh.

With Bala vanquished (for the time being at least), a new Anti-Hero was needed. This position is first played out by Ismael Bhai who stands for everything that devis against, but Ismael is mortal. The Superhuman anti-hero comes in the form of the "Horseman of the White Steed" who is drawn to this world as he feels that Devi & Tara sharing the same body is an abomination that needs to be ended.

Tara who is depressed with the events of Part 2 finds the uglier part of her raising its head, who finally manifests as Daani - the Demoness.

Do not miss Saurav Mohapatra's note on "Enter the Demoness" at the end, its a beautiful insight into the story creators perspective.

The stories are well written and engaging.  Based in Mythology and Indian Culture and even a bit of Mythology from other parts of the world thrown in (Refer - Devi's gifts)

The colours, the dream sequences, the action sequences, it is all a testament to the artists translating the writers visions beautifully.

Its a very interestingly done series. Its strange to see an Indian Goddess dressed in a Bollywood Item Number costume, but she grows on you.

Part 4 was re-released by Westland & Graphic India in February this year and I have just placed my order for it.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

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