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Graphic novels yet to catch a market in India

New Delhi: Unlike their steep rise in the West, the graphic novels in India are yet to catch the imagination of readers and it will take some more time before they set the cash registers ringing, say major publishers here.

Orijit Sen`s `River of Stories` is regarded as India`s first graphic novel that came out wayback in 1994, but this genere has seen increased activity in last six years.

`Kari` by Amruta Patil, `The Barn Owl?s Wondrous Capers` and `Corridor` by Sarnath Banerjee, `Kashmir Pending` by Naseer Ahmed and `The Hotel at the End of the World` by Parismita Singh have made graphic novels to the forefront.

Many readers sometimes confuse between graphic novels and comics as both of them use graphics and speech bubbles.

"It is not something that is meant to make you laugh or scare, it is meant to tell you a story with a difference," says Lipika Bhushan, marketing head, HarperCollins Publishers India Ltd.

"We try to stretch the boundaries of traditional comic book fiction. Each story has a strong social significance. These are stories about us, in our world, surrounded by situations and circumstances that we can identify with," says Suhas Sundar. He and his friend, Shreyas Srinivas, started India?s first serial graphic novel, `Jump`.

According to Orijit Sen, graphic novels also deal with serious issues and are aimed at slightly matured readers than those reading comics. They are a self-contained story rather than an ongoing serial.

Recalling the market situation when he wrote ` River of Stories`, Sen says,"graphic novels were quite unknown than.

It was also difficult to convince publishers for it. But things have changed now and publishers are keen to experiment."

Sen says help from some NGOs and his savings helped his novel to see the daylight. Publishing market has undergone a sea change since than and graphic novels are appealing to readers, specially the youngsters.

"Pure text is losing out to graphic novels. Readers like the visual imagination between words and illustration in a graphic novel. Graphic novels have got acceptance from the younger generation," says Bhushan.

To make the Indian graphic novel a publishing phenomenon, Orijit Sen along with Sarnath Banerjee, Vishwajyoti Ghosh, and Parismita Singhhad launched `Pao Collective` in 2009.

"Our aim is to nurture young graphic novel and create a platform for them. We want to blur the lines between art, literature, and the comic book," says Sen. The group is ready to bring out Pao anthology of Indian comics.

Campfire started publishing graphic novels in 2008 and their journey has been encouraging.

"In the times of computer, its hard to catch the attention of the children. We target them to learn good things at a younger age. Graphics keep them interested," says Jayshree Thirani, owner of Campfire graphic novels.

Campfire is also going digital to maximise its sales and widen its reach. "We expect digital sales to be a more significant revenue generator as a graphic novel sells between 3,000-5,000 copies in its life cycle," says Andy Dodd, publishing and editorial consultant of Campfire Graphic Novels.

The new graphic novel, `The Itch You Can`t Scratch` by Sumit Kumar is getting a good response from the readers.

"I have written it in conversational language, mixing hindi and english. Its slow and smooth and readers will find it easy to connect with the theme," says Kumar, whose novel deals with the confusion faced by a college pass-out in choosing a career.

The future for graphic novels looks good as more writers will dabble into this genre and bring in contemporary themes.

"It is a category with a very dedicated set of audience and a niche market. There are certain bookstores getting a large number of followers of graphic novels especially in Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai. I am sure with great homegrown authors of this genre, it will flourish and will always have its space in the business," says Bhushan.

According to Sen, graphic novels will hold their ground in times of computer and other forms of entertainment, as every medium has different type of experience to offer.

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