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Battle of the Winds is about the adventures of an Arab sailor

The cover of Battle of the Winds’ The Spy’s Route   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

History comes alive in Battle of the Winds, a comic book series based on the Arab sailor Ahmad Ibn Majid and the 15th century spice trade. The first in the series, The Spy’s Route, will be launched on October 30 at the Sharjah International Book Festival, and the creators behind the series, Manu KS and Deepak S Raj, are on a high.

Deepak chuckles as he recalls how the inspiration for the series came about. “Manu and I were spreading a pepper cheese spread on our toast when the conversation ended with a discussion on spices and the spice trade. We began researching on the subject and discovered Ahmad, a known navigator and cartographer.” Ahmed’s tales, according to Manu, has been told in a humorous way. “It is not a textbook coverage of historical events. We have personalised them, adding touches of fiction,” he says.

Deepak S Raj and Manu KS

Deepak S Raj and Manu KS   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A former associate of Hibiscus Digital Media, Manu wrote the scripts and dialogues for the company’s award-winning animated series for children, Pupi and Kathu. “Despite our works being extremely popular and rich in content, we couldn’t pitch our products globally due to the language barrier, as the works were in Malayalam,” says Manu, who met Deepak during the production of Hibiscus’ Banu Bablu, an animation series which dealt with the core concept of mathematics.

The duo who dreamt big decided to pair up and form a company that would create animated children’s content in English. And thus Fable Cart, which was later named Pava Creative Studios, was born. According to Manu, it was his 15 years of experience of working with content for children and his years of journalistic experience with various English publications that helped in the fruition of Battle of the Winds, their first work from their studio.

Inspired by The Adventures of Asterix series, which both of them are fans of, Battle of the Winds delves into the rivalry amongst the Arabs, Spanish and Portuguese in conquering the spice route. Ahmed is the only one with the map of the path and spies are hoping to steal it away from him. “The rest of the books in the series will carry the thread of the spice route along. We have conceptualised ideas for five books so far,” says Manu, who adds that market research indicated that readers were missing comic books akin to Asterix. “Marvel and DC comics have tried to enter the Arab book market but failed to as the comic characters introduced did not suit the Arab ethos. Ahmed is a forgotten, unsung hero who is now back home and we are expecting him to receive a rousing welcome,” says Manu.

A page from Battle of the Winds’ The Spy’s Route

A page from Battle of the Winds’ The Spy’s Route   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Manu has used “contemporary phrases and slang to attract young adult readers”. And while on the surface it may seem that the comic is about Ahmed and the spice trade, dig deep and you will discover various layers. “There is everything from the pan-Arab nationalism to world politics,” says Manu, adding that young adults who are “extremely media literate these days,” will get the various hidden references be it political, social or the puns and anachronism used in the comic. According to Deepak, the duo has done extensive research to get the type of architecture, clothes, modes of transportation, food… right. “It was fun learning about Ahmed, the spice route, the trade wind... The research helped me visualise and recreate the period,” he says.

The duo chose Sharjah for their launch as their work features an Arab hero “and our target is the booming Arab market. Coincidently Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, the current sovereign ruler of the Emirate of Sharjah has written a book on Ahmad Ibn Majid.”

Deepak and Manu are currently working on the next volume in the series, The Cape of Bad Hope, which they hope to release at the Bologna Festival of Children's Content, Italy. “We hope to release a digital version of this volume too,” says Deepak, adding that they are planning to pitch the comic series to Netflix. “The dream is to make it into a film,” says Manu.

The Spy’s Route, Battle of the Winds: The Legend of Ahmad Ibn Majid The Epic Sailor is written by Manu and illustrated by Deepak. Rahul Sankar is the colourist. The comic will be available at Amazon after the book launch at Sharjah.


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Printable version | Jul 17, 2021 4:42:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/battle-of-the-winds-is-about-the-adventures-of-an-arab-sailor-and-the-spice-trade/article29797170.ece

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