Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Atank-harta Nagraj


Atank-harta Nagraj is a special series featuring Nagraj in the Raj Comics universe. The series outlines the adventures of Nagraj as he travels around the world on his mission to end terrorism. The series is being published as a sequence of two part stories. The first of these happen in Spain and the next ones are set in England. I think these comics depict cataclysmic changes that are happening with Raj Comics in particular and Indian comics in general.

Much Improved Artwork
Raj Comics has clearly switched to computer assisted inking and coloring. They have also started publishing on smoother paper used by the American comics industry. The result is a much better artwork from a technical point of view. The whole feel is that of a glitzy, professional work. But that isn't all, the artwork has also improved in a non-technical way. The artists are playing around more with frames. They seem to have learned that comics should never text what it can draw. For example, the fact that Nagraj keeps an extra change of clothes in his belt is now shown though pictures and not dialog.

The anatomy of the characters has changed. The bodies are not that exaggerated now. Faces are better drawn and it is actually possible to tell them apart at places. There is a lot more 'style' to the whole production.

Change in Genre
Nagraj comics were, till now, largely superhero fantasies. In each comics Nagraj was faced with a villain with supernatural powers. And in each comics he was able to defeat them by outwitting them in some way. However, Atank-harta series brings back the detective Nagraj. Some Nagraj comics were written in detective style very early on in the franchise. This series revives that. Nagraj is following crime in Europe and follows clue after clue to unearth the various terrorist groups. The villains are criminals or terrorists and there is nothing supernatural about them.

A Lot more Character
Raj Comics has never really concentrated on character. True, the recurring characters do have their quirks but characters that appeared only for a comic or two were merely voiceless monsters. This changes with Atank-harta Nagraj. The characters of his villains are developed in detail. Lot more dialog is involved in developing the storyline.

More than a Plot
Raj Comics was largely about the plot. With this series they are coming out to address several other issues. These comics on terrorism actually have a moral – that not all members of a community are terrorists just because some of them are. Combined with enhanced character development these stories become a lot more lasting than the usual ilk.

Indian Superiority
These comics have an easy sense of Indian superiority. No more are we trying to copy the west – we already have. We can now settle down to tell our own story. Nagraj, the sole Indian character in a European setting is morally superior to everyone around him. The foreigners look up to him for leadership. Instead of the usual exoticisation of the west prevalent in Raj Comics, this series is at ease with the foreign setting. Foreign places and customs are depicted as matter of fact rather than as spectacles. A lot of Indianisms are thrown in. For example, a Spanish girl reminisces about her grandmother applying oil to her hair – a stereotypical bollywood image. When the Big Ben gets into terrorist trouble, someone in the crowd wonders if they should hand 'nimbu-mirchi' on it. :) Signboards and notices appear in Hindi where ever the reader is supposed to read them. The skin color of all characters is the same, irrespective of nationality – brown.

Overall, I was very impressed with this series. It is a huge leap in quality from what Raj Comics usually published both in terms of writing and artwork. In fact, it is actually at par with or better than many of the America comics I have read. (I would rather read Nagraj any day than, say, Witchblade.) I personally think Raj Comics has a lot of potential, if only they'd get the right exposure. Good luck to them for the future.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed the Atankharta series is one of the best series from Raj Comic till date . But what I think helped them revamp Nagraj in a stylish way was Nagraj's initial artworks . If you see the artwork of the earliest issues of Nagraj . the ones made by artist Pratap Mullik , you can easily observe the similarities in the art , like in one of his old comic "Khooni Jung" Nagraj uses a parachute of snakes and jumps from an airplane , similar sequence can be seen in one of the issues of Atankharta named Zehrila Barood . Anupam Sinha's art in a way ruined the style of Nagraj . Nagraj entered the comic world like a glam boy but Anupam sinha could not maintain this image of his.Lalit Sharma did well to reproduce its lost charm . But now with him leaving RC , not much is left in this series :(

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