Tale of a warrior prince

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A graphic novel retells the Karna story

The Karna story in the Mahabharata has always fascinated people.

Amitabh Bachchan's angry young man persona in the Seventies is an avatar of Karna — he is a victim of society, a skilled, resourceful warrior and generous to a fault. Karna is the archetypal anti-hero.

So, it came as no surprise that Vimanika Comics chose this tragic character as the protagonist for its graphic novel series, The Sixth: The Legend of Karna. The slim, colourful book with its spirited illustrations was recently launched.

“Karna is a forgotten hero,” says Karan Vir Arora, editor-in-chief of Vimanika comics. “He was loyal, chivalrous, and generous. He was a skilful archer trained in kalaripayattu by Parashuram. His only crime was that he ended up on the wrong side. I think it is important to tell his story — the world has become very selfish. Karna has not been promoted properly.”

And Arora is seeing to it that this is rectified with the series. Book I comes with a back story. “There are three books that have gone before. They are available online. The Story So Far brings the reader up to speed.”

The title, The Sixth… Arora says, is because “Karna was the sixth Pandava. He was not even acknowledged.”

The story has two threads — there is Karan Vir Oberoi, a young dashing multi-billionaire who has strange dreams of a mythic warrior, and then there is the Karna story.

Extensively researched, Arora says he has a freelance research team to get all the details right. “I conceptualise the books and they are written by Deepam Chatterjee. I see that everyone is on the same page.”

Of the vivid artwork, Arora says: “Just like Japanese Manga has become world famous, I want Indian graphic novels to have their own style, I would like it to be called Indiana.”

“I read Amar Chitra Katha as a child but I felt for about 15 to 20 years in the middle, there was a vacuum. Nothing was happening. That is when I thought of Vimanika Comics, something we can be proud of.” Talks are on for film deals and an animated series on telly.

Gotham Comics, Arora says, “showed the way. I learnt a lot from their story. Karan Vir is the first true Indian superhero. You don't need to dress your hero in a dhoti to make him Indian.”

The Sixth: The Legend of Karna costs Rs. 150 and is available at leading bookstores.





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