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Indian mythology captivates the West

Indian mythology captivates the West

India’s ancient snake legend and even Ramayana are fast catching flavour with comic book enthusiasts world-over.

Mumbai: After Harry Potter, The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings, it now appears that Indian mythology and characters based on Indian mystics are hot favourite.

India’s ancient snake legend and even Ramayana are fast catching flavour with comic book enthusiasts the world-over.

Virgin Comics, the new media and entertainment arm of Sir Richard Branson’s, Virgin Group, has found a huge western audience for Indian mythological characters such as Dada Thakur, Rama, Lakshman, Ravan, Kratha, Iyam, Bala and Devi among others.

"What we are trying to give is something different to the world. It cannot be something like the Shrek, it has to be different. It has to be uniquely Indian and the goal is to create a comic which is distinctly associated with India," says Sharad Devarajan, co-founder, CEO and publisher, Virgin Comics.

Virgin has found that stories in the Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings series are based on destiny, karma and involve characters, which are part of a larger design of life-something common to Indian mythology.

"The timing is also important since people are on the lookout for finding the deeper meaning of life and story telling concepts like that become engaging. People abroad might not know about the Ramayana, but they like something that is engaging and different to just elves and dwarfs," adds Devarajan.

Virgin Comics will soon introduce their comic books in India as well. “We will start publishing the comics in India which be initially in English and second phases will have local languages, Hindi, Punjabi and Tamil,” says Devarajan.

Asian countries like Japan, with an established comic culture, are also lapping up comics based on Indian mythology.

"In Japan, you have a 5-to 90-year-old’s reading comics, which does not happen in India. That’s what we are trying to do in India-create a medium which is as engaging as the TV, so that’s why we bring in film-makers like Shekhar Kapur who understand the pulse of the people," suggests Devarajan.

Virgin suggests that Indian comic books have not been able to produce the level of quality of comic books abroad since the cost price of Rs 10 and the kind of talent and resources needed for a high end product, don’t make it economically viable.

"But the opportunities that are available for you at $3 in the US and being able to moneytise it overseas allows companies like Virgin to build the IP to a much bigger level. But the long term play in India, is that the coming years will see 550 million people under the age of 20 who will have no iconic figures to look up to or characters that define them," says Devarajan.

In India, Virgin Comics says that they want to make comics not just for kids but also an engaging medium for adults.
first published:November 29, 2006, 15:13 IST