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Zooming into a dystopian universe

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Chills and thrills  

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A desi graphic novel blends the dark epoch of kaliyuga with the inevitability of an ice age

As Game of Thrones (GOT) fans wait with bated breath to watch winter descend upon King’s Landing, a graphic novel called Winter Child will bring another icy dystopian universe closer to home. Its story shapes up where science and Hindu mythology converge, and situates elements of the age of vice or kaliyuga (also kalyug) that is prophesied in Hindu scriptures against the backdrop of a very real future — a new ice age.

Sketching this version of reality is animator and illustrator Soumyadipta Roy who has worked on roto-animation for films like Disney’s John Carter (2012) and Brad Pitt-starrer World War Z (2013). But the cherry on top is being among the earliest people who handled footage of Harry Potter and Voldemort’s duel, having worked on multiple scenes for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 (2011). “One of the shots [I worked on] was Daniel Radcliffe plunging a fang through Ravenclaw’s [diadem – a] Horcrux,” shares the animator. But the artist’s comfort extends beyond the cinematic medium, since he has illustrated for comics that include Stan Lee’s first Indian superhero – Chakra: The Invincible (2013-14) and Pakistani comic Team Muhafiz (2015).

More recently, Soumyadipta found the impetus for his novel in the unsolvable tiffs with his wife Riddhi about the morbid future of humanity. The Goa-based couple had to agree to disagree when it came to their many discussions. Soumyadipta is certain an imminent cataclysm will arrive when temperatures drop, frost spreads across the earth’s surface, and our interglacial period slips into a new ice age. Riddhi on the other hand, thinks it will come with the moral and social degeneration described as inevitable in the kaliyuga. Both versions get actualised in Winter Child. With its setting of a future glacial epoch, Soumyadipta asks, “what if [cannibalism] becomes a solution, and another problem for society?” suggesting that the gruesome incidents foretold to occur in the kaliyuga become a forced reality born of scarcity.

The graphic novel follows a team of youngsters with hefty titles — a president, commander, astronomer and biotech scientist. The four of them, complete with fashionably styled hair, have united to find the cure to a dominant mutation that has affected the last colony on Earth. Since the mutation radically reduces the human lifespan — another prediction for the kaliyuga — and starts a rapid ageing process once the affected reach their early 20s, the team has to race against time as resources deplete and the remaining few hunt each other down.

Riddhi’s background as a 3D modeller certainly came in handy as she helped visualise the colony submerging under the frigid landscape, and the two also recruited Allen Sands, an illustrator from Brazil, to fashion the blue-toned dystopia for the novel. The team is 60% through with their 150-page novel and are currently running an online crowdfunding campaign to raise ₹7 lakh to complete the project. While they are exploring publishing options, including the self-publishing company Notion Press, they also hope to kick-start Winter Child motion comics and an animated film or series in due time.

Their online Wishberry page offers a mini documentary with their graphics, a voiceover and an explanation of how Winter Child is the desi response to GOT — along with even a dollop of the Roys’ almost Bollywood-like love. Yet the novel itself will join a growing heap of post-apocalyptic fiction in pop culture and other retellings of Hindu myths for modern audiences. Virgin Comics’ Ramayan 3392 A.D. is a popular Indian case in point. But the Roys are certain Winter Child will stand out since they have steered clear of the oft-explored reimagining of characters in royal clothes and mythical settings to instead mould a fictional future that, from costumes to the larger visual vocabulary, will be more recognisable for their readers.

So while our favourite medieval dystopia is yet to become reality, we can explore a wintry future where Indians won’t be auxiliary characters in a post-apocalyptic world. Rather, Indians will be front and centre and saving it.

Support Winter Child on wishberry.in/campaign/winter-child. The campaign ends on April 29.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 3:14:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/zooming-into-a-dystopian-universe/article23700807.ece

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