“Books are not words or pages, but a portal to transport the lucky readers”

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–says Vikram Balagopal, an author, a filmmaker, a published poet, an illustrator and a cartoonist. Here, he shares more about his passion (illustrations) in conversation with Smita Dwivedi. An avid sketcher from the start, he began writing poems and short stories when he was nine and discovered cinema when he was twelve with a viewing of 2001: A Space Odyssey. He has been a storyteller since childhood. As a child, he watched countless movies, wrote stories, screenplays and made several short films throughout his school days.

Born in 1984 in the town of Quilon in Kerala, in a family of serious readers, Vikram’s love for books was nothing unexpected. Later, he thought of bringing together his three passions of writing, visualizing and drawing and has devoted himself to the development of his epic retelling of the Ramayana in the Graphic Novel trilogy – SIMIAN. SIMIAN explores the Ramayana from Hanumana’s point of view, dissecting the decisions one has to make in a war situation and the consequences one has to then live with.

Inking thoughts!

The author has completed the first and second part of his SIMIAN trilogy, and is busy working on the third part at present. On sharing more about the inception of thought, he shared, “I have sketched from as far back as I can remember because I think visually. My training as a filmmaker was perfectly suited to aid me in telling my stories. But when I was developing SIMIAN I realised, it would work best as a graphic novel and I decided to illustrate it myself.

Most of my inspirations are from the films I love. My book SIMIAN is for adults and teenagers. As a graphic novel, it uses the images and the words to tell the story, as complex as it would be in a novel.” Adding more about the book, he said, “This novel is something more than a children’s book and less than a thick glob of academic text. It is The Lord of the Rings meets Gone With the Wind.

The market for graphic novels is thriving the world over and growing, unlike that for novels. More young readers will be drawn to a dynamic visual rendering without the thick endless prose.”

On influences and more…

His experience in film and developing scripts and projects for other film-makers, has lent him a cinematic eye to aid in telling this tale. Being an illustrator, he thinks in pictures not in words. “I have been more influenced by comic book writers than the artists, though their work is phenomenal.

My favourite comic book writers are Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. Though at the time, there were very few illustrated books available in India; my favourites as a child were Tintin by Herge and Asterix by Goscinny and Uderzo. I was also a big fan of the Amar Chitra Katha books. While illustrating, I am focused on serving the story entirely. Even the most beautiful illustrations are nothing without a story that can grip you.”

Book or e-book!

On asking about the declining reading habits and change of medium, he shared his positive opinion and added, “I think e-books are the most important development in the past few years that has revolutionised the publishing industry. It has positive and negative aspects to it that have altered reading forever. The greatest greatly is that anybody can download any book on their phone or tablet or laptop without chasing down a copy in a bookstore or library.”

But being an avid book lover, he cannot ignore the importance of physical book and expressing his concern as an avid reader, he added, “Having an access to e-books, in my opinion, has reduced the reader’s esteem for the medium. Earlier, books had a pride of place on the bookshelves in our homes. Sadly now, when hundreds, if not thousands, of books can fit in a phone alone, they are reduced to files we read and delete without a second thought. Books are not words or pages, but a portal to transport or update the lucky reader.”

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