I am sure we all have heard of the great Indian mythological epic – Ramayana, the story of prince Ram’s conquest over the evil lord of Lanka – Ravan. There have been many epics written on Lord Ram, but very little has been said about the character of Ravan.
This is about to change if two young Turks have their way; Ravanayan is an independent graphic novel project being undertaken by Vijayendra Mohanty (writer) and Vivek Goel (artist), which explores the character of Ravan in ways not thought of before.
We sat down with Vivek Goel (recently known for his work on first 4 issues of Northern song in Jump form Level 10) for a quick chat on the upcoming project.
First question Vivek; right off the bat – have we not seen it all in Ramayan?
Wow, you are a bit direct aren’t you? Haha! Well kidding aside, unlike most people understand, Ravanayan is “not” our take on the legendary hindu epic Ramayan but its the life story of Dashanan Ravan – the lord of Lanka. On the contrary Ramayan is a very small part of the series since it marked the end of the rakshasa (Demon) kings reign over Lanka. Whatever part Ramayan has in this story will be the original, Ramayan thereby remaining untouched 🙂
Nice to know the original revered epic is going to be unchanged! But what is your aim in creating Ravanayan then?
Our aim with Ravanayan is to take a look at the Ramayan universe from the so-called dark side. The story of Rama follows a straight-cut path right to the end. We want to follow the story from its much celebrated end, to its beginning, and in the process, re-imagine much of what is accepted as being true about one of India’s most-loved epics
There is definitely a lot of new stuff in Ravanayan. We have taken a unique view of Ramayan and presented it as a story about the nature of good and evil. The aim of the story is to help throw some light on the definition of “evil”. If someone as well-known and evil as Ravana could have a side that we can be sympathetic to, then almost anyone can be good. Think of all the “bad” people in your life. Can’t they also be “good” in one way or the other?
Sounds interesting – very “Two Face”(Batman villain) like if I might say! How did this project originate?
It is my brainchild and it occurred to me 2 years back sitting at Vijayendra Mohanty’s house at Delhi that why don’t we do a book on this character, he has been like totally untouched by anyone till date and undoubtedly is one of the most important character of Ramayan. It is our co-owned project as Vijayendra is doing the research and the script part, he is basically spinning the story and I am doing the storyboards and the character re-designs.
How has the experience of working with Vijayendra Mohanty been like?
My comic book relationship with writer Mohanty goes very long, we both started our carriers together – literally and our mind set is so similar and strong that we both saw each other fitting for this project, we both know each other’s strengths and agree on most of the things, the things that we do not agree on don’t have much relevance.
I am always inclined to the out of box thinking!!! Generic things don’t appeal me that much, Both I and Mohanty believe that a tree remains the same if you look at it from the other side BUT the perspective changes, this is what Ravanayan is all about, an untold story about to be unleashed !!!
But we both needed to grow, as an artist and as a writer and so we started doing a monthly comic book “Northern song” for Level 10 comics and I did the 1st 4 issues and Mohanty the 1st 5 issues and then when we saw that the time is right, we moved on to Ravanayan. It also have been covered by the 3 major newspapers of india – D.N.A, TIMES AND H.T.
Talking about northern song , you weren’t on the art duties on 5th and final part ? How did that happen?
Good old NS. I consider myself blessed to be an architect of such a project, Got a slow start though but it has tremendous potential !! The good people at Level 10 comics wanted to experiment with some new art style, something very simplified and light and i think they succeeded in that, loved the artwork of NS # 05.
Tell us a little about the evolution of Ravanayan from the idea stage to the comic
It’s been wonderful ride up till now, truly wonderful !! Trust me, we as a layman have only scratched the surface of our mythology. I got a chance along with Vijayendra to do some research and its mesmerising, the characters are very rich and larger than life.
I have re -designed the characters of Ravanayan (artistically- to make them more interesting as comic is a visual medium) according to their personal characteristics and the result is truly amazing.
While re-imagining characters, you need to think clearly why you are keeping this guy’s long hair, removing somebody’s moustache or making some character colourful or dark, for that u need to read about them, understand them so that their designs itself should speak about them. Their body type, drapery, ornaments, accessories – everything should reflect their individual personalities.
Before entering into mainstream comics, I did a lot of character designs for various ad agencies and Star Plus and it has come in real handy with Ravanayan.
I bet the kind of story Vijayendra is spinning is going to be amazing, he has a great hand in my evolution as an artist !! There has been a no. of occasions that scenarios/landscapes/angles have come into the script which were totally “un Vivek Goel” but the story needed them and so I pushed myself beyond my drawing skills in achieving them.
This is your own personal discovery and you keep doing it for the rest of your life as an artist. Every practicing artist goes through this continuous evolution and this is exactly what keeps us giving better and better product.
How has the reception of the project been so far?
People are very excited and the support is enormous. They are waiting very patiently for it to see the light of the day as it explores something totally unexplored till date. The character of Dashanan is very interesting and powerful and his life has been a wonderful journey.
Let me ask you a personal question, how much do you know bout Ravan ?? only that much what u must have heard in Ramayan? but he also had a life before Ramayan, a family, a kingdom !! He had many positive and interesting qualities and adventures too !! Our aim basically is not to gather sympathy or love for Ravan or to change anyone’s religious belief (this is the part where the epic Ramayan goes untouched in our story 🙂 but to tell an interesting and untold story. I think the guy at least deserves that!
I truly feel sorry to the good people who have waited so long for this project and all we have revealed till date are some teasers and a single interior page (as most of the pages have crucial characters and it has to be kept under wraps for now) but trust me, it has gone through a number of changes (and from the page which is there on my drawing board I can say it’s for good) but I can safely say that THIS is the final stretch and I hope the product is worth the wait.
There have been some initial negative response also (mostly due to the misunderstanding of this being our take on Ramayan which has been cleared out on a number of occasions).
We aim to create a product which will make young people of our country want more of our mythology.
There is a lot more than meets the eye as I said, our characters are just waiting to be explored, all we need to do is to make them more interesting to our younger gen.
Very rightly put Vivek. Accha, do tell us a little about your third cohort in crime.
Yogesh Pugaonkar, who is my proud discovery and my cover colourist, is also playing a pivotal role in the series with us.
I found an e-mail in my mailbox one morning 5 months back and there was this young boy wanting to do something in comics, we got along pretty well and now he will be seeing himself publishing internationally in just 5 months of his professional comics career !!! This is something to get inspired from !! A truly dedicated fellow. Will reveal his full feature in the next interview where he gets internationally published with Moonstone (it will be his 1st international cover with me and mine 3rd)
Who thought of the name of the title. I think its very cool!
Vijayendra Mohanty deserves full credit for that!
Can you share some more concept sketches with us?
I apologize for not been able to share with you most of the character designs/pages/ covers as they are totally under wraps for now as we have worked very hard on them and the designs are very unique. But just for our beloved readers, here are some behind the scenes pages from Ravanyan – first time seen anywhere! ( Please click on the image to enlarge it)
Have there been any changes along the way from your original plans for Ravanayan?
We originally planned it as a 120 page GN, but now that we understand it has limitless potential as well as such deep story, it has evolved into a 12 issue maxi series.
We are at a final stretch now as the books are getting ready fast, I have already done 4 issues and am trying to do most so that the monthly schedule does not mess up, our good readers have waited for very long and it becomes our duty to take care of them in every way possible.
Has the Publisher and release date been finalized?
Publisher has indeed been finalized but this too is under wraps, it will be a big surprise for all. It releases in early 2011.
Thanks to Vivek for sharing the inside pages with us. Hope to see Ravanyan on stands soon!!
We talk to Vivek some more regarding his artwork and future of comics in part 2 of this article. Stay tuned