Ramayan 3392 AD
Writer: Shamik Dasgupta
Artists: Abhishek Singh
Publishers: Virgin Comics
The Ramayana this isn’t. It is a fantasy story set in a post-apocalyptic future, with characters bearing the same names as the epic, and with mild plot similarities. Deepak Chopra and Shekhar Kapur were involved as “creators,” and I take it that they had the bright idea of mapping this fantasy story to the beloved Indian epic. It is on writer Shamik Dasgupta’s shoulders to adapt familiar (read: Western) fantasy clichÃ©s and apply them to the storyline. Which is not really a bad thing, and would have worked on its own merit, had it not been the constant insistence on the part of Dasgupta to include Hindi catchphrases like “Oi Maa” and “Pranaam Pitashree” (this just after one of the characters, the youngest brother Shatrughan, a roly-poly teenager with a fear of heights, exclaims, “I just hope that damned arthritis is not bothering him.”) Even more irritating is the American tough-speak that creep into the dialogue, the hoariest bits of tripe culled from bad Hollywood movies.
There is a Star Wars/Lord of the Rings hangover in the designs, whatever you can make out, that is. It’s almost as if artist Abhishek Singh has a chronic fear of drawing backgrounds and compensates for it by making colourist Ashwin Chikerur work overtime – rendering the art murky and making most of the comic seem like a hazy blur processed through innumerable Photoshop filters.
I tried really, really hard to enjoy this book, regardless of all the negatives. But the story fails to stand on its own as an entertaining yarn, and it fails to live up to the legacy of the Ramayana, with the characters’ taking on a forced edginess (because of editorial mandate?) that kills all your enthusiasm. At a point, Lakshman’s rude behaviour towards Rama causes the latter to lash out at him, and Vishwamitra grabs hold of them and screams, “Hold it, you buffoons!” I groaned and moved on to the next comic on my pile, because my brain and my eyes hurt.