Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chronicle of martyrs

Bullets don’t bounce off their chests. Nor do they have superhuman powers to unleash webs or hoist themselves into the air, voluminous capes and all. What they do have is extraordinary courage. Meet the heroes of the Indian War Comics, a series that began in ’08 with a comic on Kargil martyr Capt Vikram Batra. The third one, commemorating Maj Sandeep Unnikrishnan of 26/11 fame, will be released on Independence Day. If the cover is any indication—a fiery-eyed Maj Unnikrishnan aiming his rifle at the enemy against the backdrop of a burning Taj Mahal Hotel, all the while supporting his injured colleague—the portrayal of the protagonist will fit snugly into the superhero mould, though it will also dwell on his early life and influences.

It was ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’, Capt Batra’s famous rallying cry on the icy heights of Kargil, that inspired the series creator, Aditya Bakshi, to immortalise India’s military heroes through speech bubbles. A merchant navy officer and a general’s son, reared on dog-eared Commando comics, Aditya found himself moved to tears after a chat with his father about Capt Batra, who died at the age of 24. “There was a lot of material available on him, but only in the regimental format of historical accounts, which would hardly appeal to children. I wanted to make these heroes known to the widest possible audience, and in a more permanent way than the odd TV programme.” So, armed with a pencil, Aditya began to give shape to his idea, even doing the early drawings himself. Later, the realisation that the text he was penning needed professionally executed visuals sent him off to the Delhi College of Art with an ‘artist wanted’ poster.

A student, Pradeep Yadav, came forward and Yeh Dil Maange More, the first black-and-white Indian War Comic—82 pages long, priced at Rs 65 and merging facts and imagination with gusto—was born. While it is public knowledge that Capt Batra single-handedly overpowered five enemy soldiers, approaching their bunker from the back after a perilous climb, the comic drew upon all the resources of the genre to illustrate how it was done—with a little creative licence thrown in. For instance, it has Capt Batra shout out the lines: “Yes, it’s raining bullets and perhaps we die. But what more worthy death can one hope for? Come on men, this is what we dreamed die a soldier’s death and live forever.” It even has a bit role for journalist Barkha Dutt, who  interviewed Capt Batra at Kargil.

Full report here Outlook 

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