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Issue 23
, 2010
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"Graphic novels now cover all sorts of genres, from sci-fi to horror to war"

Source: Toxic Alert, Date: , 2010

After  having worked for 2 years in Mumbai, for a company that made animated commercials,Priya Kuriyan,illustrator of Our Toxic World, moved to Delhi  to work on animated educational films for the Sesame Street project. She began illustrating while she was in design school , doing a course in animation film making. Her first real illustration project was for Tulika books – a children’s publisher based in Chennai.Subsequently she went on to illustrate for other publishers like Scholastic, Penguin and Hachette.
She speaks to Suparna Dutta on the growing popularity of graphic books amongst Indian readers of all ages.

Is illustrating a more difficult process than writing?

Though I don’t have as much experience with the latter, I would say they both are equally challenging processes and I don’t think one can compare the two . What a writer tries to do with words, an illustrator does with pictures. Though , the one advantage I feel that a writer has is that he/she does not require as many resources to work with . All they require is a paper a pen or a laptop and they are set . Thus the idea of working from anywhere in the world is more of a possibility.


Tell us something about Our Toxic World.

I got involved with Our Toxic world around early 2008. When Aniruddha and Salil told me about the their idea of using the format of a graphic novel , to educate and inform people about how development has affected the world and our environment , I thought that the idea was very unique and extremely sincere. Aniruddha had already started working on the script which was based on the research that Toxic Links had been doing over the years .


Over all it took me around 8 months to complete working on the artworks. Annie would send in the script as it was being written, chapter -wise and then I would then work on the rough visuals at my end. He would then go through these rough sketches and send in very detailed feedback. The major part of editing the artworks was done at this point, after which the inking and final artwork was complete. It was a huge learning process for me in many ways . I had never worked on a graphic novel or a comic book before. Also, I learnt so much about environmental hazards while working on the book. I myself have started putting into practice certain things mentioned in the book .


What is the future of graphic books in India? Do you see an increased interest level amongst the readers?

There is definitely an increased interest in graphic books . While I was growing up , the only graphic books that were easily accessible were comics - the Amar chitra kathas or some American comics. But over the past few years the publishing industry in India has grown and accessibility to Indian graphic novels( that were initially only printed outside India )has made people more familiar with the format . It has suddenly become very ‘cool’ to have read or be reading these novels . There has also been an increase in writers who would like to write these novels.


How is the trend internationally?

Internationally also , the trend of reading graphic novels is on the rise . Manga comics have been gaining immense popularity all over the world . A lot of these books are being translated into many languages which says a lot about their popularity.These books are easier and faster to read and the visuals allow ideas and cultural contexts to be understood more easily than when there is only text. Novels like Maus have achieved cult status . Marjane Satrapi ‘s Persepolis , that tells the story of an Iranian girl living in France became hugely popular and was even made into an Oscar nominated film in 2008 . The cinematic quality of these books adds to their popularity .


There is a popular perception that graphic books are children’s books because of abundance of pictorial depiction and not for serious reading. Comment.

I guess this perception was built because people were more familiar with comic books like Batman , Superman et al. which were read mainly by kids . But I think with increased awareness and exposure by the media , that perception is slowly changing . Over the past few years I think people have become much more aware of the format . Graphic novels now cover all sorts of genres, from sci-fi to horror to war. Art Spiegelman's Maus , that chronicles his parents lives in the Nazi concentration camps,was groundbreaking for the very fact that made people recognize this as a format that could say something insightful and serious .


How is Our Toxic World different from any other graphic book?

It is very different in terms of its content . The format is offbeat for a book of this nature which is the very reason we hope readers find the book to be unique and most importantly, it evokes interest in the pertinent messages that the book tries to convey .