Review of Virgin Comics’ “The Sadhu” Issue #1
Virgin Comics has been brought out and is the brainchild of Bollywood and now Hollywood Director Shekhar Kapur (Mr. India, Bandit Queen, Elizabeth), New Age spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, and maverick UK businessman Sir Richard Branson.
The Sadhu is the first issue of Virgin Comics and the story is by Cheif Creative Officer and Editor in Cheif of Virgin Comics, Gotham Chopra and the artwork is by Jeevan Kang.
The story starts with a group of bandits led by a mystical leader called Dadathakur who fight the English Army in the jungles of Bengal around the First War of Independence (or the Sepoy Mutiny, if you so desire to call it) only with wooden lathis, and the bandits (or Dakaits, as the comic calls them ;-).
Dadathakur meets a strange lady who says that his chosen is on the way.
The story then moves to England where, James Jensen lives as a daily wage laborer on London’s tough docks with his short tempered brother William. One day as destiny would have it, James is approached by a recruiter of the British Army to go to Her Majesty’s colonies. James has always been attracted by India and when he finds that his wife is pregnant he chooses the life of making a career in India.
In India he loosens up and becomes more joyful somehow being sure that this is where he is meant to be. He keeps running into a mysterious man in a Kali temple and again when he and his wife are accosted by a Royal Bengal tiger. The tiger listens to the mysterious man and walks away.
Who is this man? Is this the Sadhu? How is he related to James and Dadathakur? What does the future have in store for James? The first issue ends with these questions for the reader.
The artwork is in one word – amazing. The milieu changes and James moods are reflected in the grey and dark blue sombre colors for England and bright yellows and reds when they move to Bengal.
The mystical parts are done with fade out of boundaries in the background as well as sepia tones. The drawback however, for the Indian audiences would have to be the dialogues and narration. With an eye on the Western audience and marketing Indian mysticism, Gotham Chopra’s script seems to New Age-y (which is understandable, as he is Deepak Chopra’s son) and stilted attempts at being profound. For example after the Prologue, James’ story begins with:
“We choose starting points, when in truth every single moment exists in the context of every single moment throughout time that precedes and follows it. Time is a tapestry with neither beginning nor end. We like to think that stories start at a single point, but in truth it’s one eternal tale” !!!
We hope this heavy dose of prose goes the away in future issues. However, if American and Brit readers lap it up, we might continue to be inflicted by it. Additonally to make matters more painful for the Indian reader, a page full of explanations of the concept of Shakti and the four stages of life make the comic seem like a treatise on Hinduism by Deepak Chopra. As a reader one just wants to concentrate on the story, and axioms for the story should be built into it, not provided additionally as an addendum. You can check the the preview at the Virgin Comics site
All in all, it’s a good attempt, but I won’t say that it will do for Indian stories what Manga has done for Japanese comics ! At least, not with current track of Westernised presentation of pseudo-myths. Only Ramayana Retold seems to have the potential to be a hit. Snake Woman is the story of Bollywood staple Icchadhari Nagin, adapted to the US!
Resurrecting Indrajal Comics’ Bahadur or doing re-telling of Amar Chitra Katha would probably have been a better way to invade the West !
This review is also up at Desicritics.org