The Last Heroes as graphic narrative

Sixteen illustrators revisit P. Sainath’s book on some of India’s forgotten bravehearts

August 18, 2023 09:03 am | Updated 09:03 am IST

From ‘Bhagat Singh Jhuggian: Punjab’s Relentless Revolutionary’.

From ‘Bhagat Singh Jhuggian: Punjab’s Relentless Revolutionary’.

To mark 76 years of India’s Independence, publisher Tulika Books has adapted P. Sainath’s The Last Heroes: Foot Soldiers of Indian Freedom into a graphic narrative. Sixteen illustrators have brought the largely forgotten stalwarts to life, who hail from different regions, communities and occupations. Unknown Heroes of India’s Freedom Struggle will be officially launched at the end of the week.

From ‘Mallu Swarajyam: Telangana’s firebrand freedom fighter’.

From ‘Mallu Swarajyam: Telangana’s firebrand freedom fighter’.

Artist Ikroop Sandhu whose first graphic novel was on the life of Bhagat Singh, picked ‘Bhagat Singh Jhuggian: Punjab’s Relentless Revolutionary’ for this project too. “I chose the revolutionary from Hoshiarpur as my area of interest lies in the radical history of Punjab and it seemed like a perfect opportunity to continue my research,” says Sandhu. After reading the story written by Sainath, Sandhu structured the narrative to fit the 12-page limit. Sandhu points out that the graphic novel format is a “softer way of introducing contextually heavy, conceptual or hard to digest stories. This allows for a varied audience, both in age and interest.”

She adds that by using visual metaphors and motifs, the graphic novel eases the viewer into a world where they can take their time to unravel the meaning and intuitively seek the emotional weight of a story.

From ‘H.S. Doreswamy: Mysore’s Mischievous Newsman’.

From ‘H.S. Doreswamy: Mysore’s Mischievous Newsman’.

Animator and illustrator Rajiv Eipe chose to tell the story of ‘H.S. Doreswamy: Mysore’s Mischievous Newsman’. “His story really spoke to me — the determination and audacity with which he went about setting up new newspapers as the British establishment kept shutting them down, and generally the idea of the role of the press and publishing during the freedom struggle and the years beyond.” Eipe feels that Doreswamy’s story has particular relevance for the present times.

From ‘R. Nallakannu: Tamil Nadu’s fighter for forgotten freedoms’.

From ‘R. Nallakannu: Tamil Nadu’s fighter for forgotten freedoms’.

Asked if the project will speak to a younger audience, Eipe says, the anthology, with a diversity of visual interpretations to match the different personalities featured, will draw readers of all ages.

Unknown Heroes of India’s Freedom Struggle; Adapted from P. Sainath’s The Last Heroes, Tulika Books, ₹375.

sudipta.datta@thehindu.co.in

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