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21 Indian Graphic Novels That Should Be On Your Reading List

Eternal feuds, reincarnation, lost civilisations, underworld drama – what more could anyone want?

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1. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves: Reloaded

A retelling of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" from Arabian Nights, the story follows Ali Baba, an auto-rickshaw driver in Mumbai. One day he comes across the loot of a gang of 40 thieves, and descends into the chaos of the seedy underbelly of Mumbai's criminal underworld. The novel was written by Poulomi Mukherjee and illustrated by Amit Tayal.

2. Kashmir Pending

This novel focuses on Kashmiri people and all the trials and tribulations they've faced. Although the story features many character perspectives, the majority of what Kashmir actually is is seen through the eyes of a reformed militant who is rotting in jail. The novel was written by Naseer Ahmed and Saurabh Singh.

3. The Sadhu

The series follows a British soldier who realises that he is the reincarnation of a powerful sadhu from ancient times. In a Constantine kind of fashion, he travels around helping those that need him, while also dealing with mystical forces that plague the world and his existence. The series was created by Gotham Chopra and Jeevan Kang.

4. Kari

Kari tells the tale of a lesbian heroine whose lover has left her and moved away. The dark and gritty tone of the novel showcases the angst of people moving into bigger scenes than they're used to. The two main characters both emerge from broken backgrounds and the road they take helps them fix themselves just a little bit. The novel was written by Amruta Patil.

5. Ramayan 3392 A.D.

This series takes place in a dystopian future, and follows the exploits of the last remaining humans, who are fighting for survival against the demons that have taken over. The protagonist of the series is a human prince, Rama, who, along with his brothers, forms the forefront of the resistance. After the initial eight-series run, the story is being retooled to focus on Rama and other escape from the wastelands, where Rama is facing near fatal wounds. The series is written by Shamik Dasgupta and illustrated by Jeevan Kang.

6. The Aghori

The Aghori is a multi-issue comic series that focuses on a man trying to lead a normal life – but when he's torn from his family, he begins a search for answers. He leaves the known world behind, and goes on a 12-year journey that ends with him becoming an Aghori, one of the dark ascetics of the Himalayas. The series is written by Ram V. and illustrated by Vivek Goel.

7. Devi

This novel is loosely based on Durga and focuses on Devi, a rogue warrior created by the gods to fight off the dark god Bala during the second century of man. In the present day, Bala rose once more, and Devi was reincarnated as a young girl named Tara Mehta. This drastically changes Tara's superficial lifestyle as she gets thrown into an ancient war that has emerged once more. The series was created by Shekhar Kapur and Virgin Comics. It is written by various writers, primarily Siddharth Kotian, Samit Basu, and Saurav Mohapatra, and illustrated by Mukesh Singh, Aditya Chari, and Saumin Patel.

8. Mumbai Confidential

This classic "good cop, bad cop" story revolves around Arjun Kadam, a burnt-out, drug-addicted ex-cop living in Mumbai. He gets back in the game while investigating the murder of a street urchin. As the novel unfolds, Kadam comes face to face with his own shady past, while navigating through the Mumbai underworld. It was written by Saurav Mohapatra and Vivek Shinde.

9. I Am Kalki – the Silver Book

This novel revolves around a young boy named Kalki, who is the 10th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He balances his life as a normal teenager, and his role as the protector of humanity against the demons of today. It was written by Deepak Chatterjee.

10. Corridor

Via blog.niaindia.org

The simple story of Jehangir Rangoonwalla, a tea vendor in Delhi, this novel chronicles his everyday life and interactions with the people who visit his stall. The action is played out by the stories narrated by his customers and showcases the alienation and isolation of modern-day life. Many consider Corridor India's first graphic novel. It was written and illustrated by Sarnath Banerjee.

11. Ravanayan

A 10-part series that reimagines Ravana from the Ramayana as the protagonist of the story. This novel changes many things from the original mythology, describing Ravana as a "handsome, muscular man with flowing locks of white hair". It showcases an interesting switch of perspective, rationalising many of Ravana's evil acts by providing reasonable explanations. The novel also has other characters from the Ramayana, albeit in different avatars from their originals. The series is written by Vijayendra Mohanty and illustrated by Vivek Goel.

12. In Defence of the Realm

Via campfire.co.in

This story focuses on an ancient civilisation that springs from the massive Indus Valley civilisation near the plains of Western India. The leisurely life of Prince Meluha, the ruler of Dholavira, is forever changed when Sargon, the ruthless ruler of the Mesopotamian city of Akkad, decides to conquer the lands to the east of his empire. The novel is written by Sanjay Deshpande and illustrated by Lalit Kumar Sharma.

13. Delhi Calm

This novel reimagines Delhi in the 1970s and focuses on the intertwined fates of three men who see the world very differently but at the same time want things to change. It was written by Vishwajyoti Ghosh.

14. Odayan

This novel is one of Level 10's titles, and takes place in feudal Kerala. The main protagonist is a vigilant criminal known as Odayan, and the story follows his gradual amassment of wealth and power, resulting in him coming head to head with those already in power. The novel was written by Suhas Sundra.

15. The Barn Owl's Wondrous Capers

Via archive.thedailystar.net

This novel reimagines the tale of the biblical figure the Wandering Jew, who was cursed to walk the earth for all of eternity. Abravanel Ben Obadiah Ben Aharon Kabariti, a Jewish merchant, living in 18th century Kolkata, records all the scandalous deeds committed by the British administrators in a book called The Barn Owl's Wondrous Capers. The novel itself has several sub-plots, but the focus is always on the narrator's quest to recover the book, which was once in his grandfather's possession.

16. The Believers

Via indianetzone.com

The Believers revolves around two brothers living very different lives, miles apart in the Malappuram region of Kerala. On visiting the other, one of them realises his sibling has gotten involved in extremist activities. The central theme of the novel is religious tolerance. It was written by Abdul Sultan P.P. and illustrated by Partha Sengupta.

17. Moonward

Via goodreads.com

This novel takes place in a fictional reality of Halahala, which is at war. In a Hail Mary effort to save lives, the ancient Tortle manages to bring many new and strange creatures into his world. The plot also follows Nana, a man born in a small village, who is convinced of his own godliness as he begins to be overwhelmed with the power he possesses. The novel was written by Appupen.

18. Antardwand – The Inner Struggle

Antardwand – The Inner Struggle is written in Hindi and is a continuation from the previous volume, Dhikkar. It follows Bhokal, the protector of the fairy folk, and is chalked full of demigods, redemption, and the balance of power. The novel is published by Raj Comics and illustrated by Hemant.

19. River of Stories

Via lookingfromsolitude.tumblr.com

The novel is a short walk through the social and political climate surrounding the construction site of Narmada Dam in Gujarat. It is cited as being one of the earliest graphic novels and was written by Orijit Sen.

20. Moon Mountain

Via penguinbooksindia.com

The action in this novel takes place in pre-First World War Africa, as a young lad named Alvarez and his friends brave mythical beats, unseen tribes, and treacherous paths in search of the diamond mines of Richtersveld, the mountain of the moon. The novel is a retelling of Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay’s classic Bengali novel Chander Pahar, and is written by Saurav Mohapatra.

21. Sita: Daughter of the Earth

The novel is an adaptation of the Ramayana and focuses on Sita, the princess of the kingdom of Videha. She becomes tangled in a web of deceit and lies and is eventually abducted by Ravana. Her husband Rama, prince of Ayodhya must then come to her rescue. The novel is written by Saraswati Nagpal and illustrated by Manikandan.

Bonus: 18 Days

One of the pioneers of graphic novels, Grant Morrison teamed up with Mumbai-based artist Mukesh Singh to deliver 18 Days.The story is a retelling of the Mahabharata, and tells of three generations of powerful warriors, climaxing in an epic war that brings about the end of days for both god and man.

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