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EXPRESS

OCTOBER 28, 2012

The man who made them superheroes Anupam Sinha’s comic creation, Nagraj, ageless and incomparable, turned 27 this month

PRIYANKA KOTAMRAJU Nagraj: Oh! To iska matlab hai ki is baar Miss Killer aur Thodanga milkar hum dono ko khatm karna chahte hain. Super Commando Dhruv: Miss Killer ko to main jaanta hoon, Nagraj, lekin yeh Thodanga kya bala hai?

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N NAGRAJ Aur Bugaku, the first comic where the two superheroes get together to fight evil, it is suggested that the two are greatest friends. When Anupam Sinha, 50, created Dhruv in 1987, he didn’t plan for this. Even when he took over the Nagraj reins in 1996, he didn’t see the friendship or the shared adventures coming. “It was simply presumed they would be friends, when Bugaku came out with both of them. There was an informal introduction, but nothing more,” he says. Sinha, after 25 years, is now used to juggling both the characters in separate storylines and together, and casting a powerful superhero net to rid the world of evil, much to the delight of fans. Nagraj, ageless and incomparable, turned 27 this month, in

his comic-book avatar. At Dilli Haat, Pitampura, fans gathered round Anupam Sinha, eager to share their personal stories of Nagraj, pick faultlines in plots, and meet the man behind the cult. Sinha, however, is plainly embarrassed on such occasions. Overwhelmed and grateful, yes, but also embarrassed. That a “generation grew up and came together because of a fictional character amazes me. People have learned Hindi to be able to read the comics. They’ve found friends through my characters,” he says with an air of disbelief. At Rohini, on his home turf, Sinha is more open about his generation-defining characters and where they came from. When Rajkumar Gupta, owner of Raj Comics, came up with the idea of an Indian superhero, Nagraj, in 1985, he got pulp-fiction writer, Parshuram Sharma, to write the Nagraj novels, illustrated by the great artist, Pratap Mullick. Sinha, then, was making singlepanel black-and-white cartoons for magazines. It was Gulshan Rai of Diamond Comics who drew his attention to the comic-novel format. At Chitra Bharti, an S Chand & Company comic, he wrote his

Anupam Sinha thinks the Indian fantasy genre will bloom soon. RENUKA PURI

first comic, Space Star, heavily inspired by Star Trek but with a completely Indian cast. And his first character creation was in the Private Detective Kapil comics. In 1987, when Sinha got a call from Raj Comics for a superhero comic, the idea of Super Commando Dhruv began to take shape. And in an industry where illustrators were few and writers even fewer, he was a unique creature. He wrote, drew and inked his own comics. For the first Dhruv comic, he looked for inspiration in unlikely

places. “I was reading Ripley’s Believe It or Not. People could do such strange and powerful things. So I placed Dhruv in a circus, where it would appear logical that he could pick up all kinds of wonderful skills. I didn’t give him an alter-ego. It’s such a Western concept. He is a superhero, not because of any special power but because he is smarter, more powerful and more skilled than ordinary humans, in a completely natural way.” And then Raj Comics asked him to take over the Nagraj fran-

chise in 1996. “I strived to go back and give Nagraj a logical background, explain his powers — gave him venom in his white blood cells for the deadly vishfoonkar — and develop his back story in a more mythological manner rather than the lab-experiment way,” he says. In one of Sinha’s favourite Dhruv stories, Mujhe Maut Chahiye, the antagonist is cursed with immortality. “Zindagi ki saza di gayi thi use,” he says. While Dhruv struggles to unravel the mystery of this villain, it’s the

evil itself that appeals to our imagination — cursed, immortal and wronged. As is the case with many Nagraj and Dhruv stories, it’s their villains that are the most colourful, with strange powers and odd fatalities. Sinha laughs and agrees: “My stories are centred around the villains. Nagraj and Dhruv are one-dimensional characters and they merely react to the aggressors. So, I have to think of ways to make my villains more powerful and exciting. Even the cities, Rajnagar and Mahanagar, are replicas of me-

tropolises where the smallest things — for instance, germs — can be used to depict evil. My cities are planned to have waterfronts, jungles, swamps, dense populations, dark narrow lanes, financial and scientific hubs — all with a possibility of evil. It’s not exactly New York or Mumbai but not too different either.” Sinha says new readers are fewer. “When the comic revolution happened in the 80s, parents did not allow kids to read comics. Reading comics wasn’t considered serious. But then, television happened. And then mobiles, computers and games. Comics took a backseat. But somehow, we survived. And I sense that the Batman, Spiderman and Watchmen movies have instilled new interest in comics. And now there is a movie on Doga too. I think it’s time for the Indian fantasy genre to bloom.” And it’s this genre he has set his eyes on. From purists finding his recent Nagraj and Dhruv plotlines far removed from reality to his first proper novel, The Virtuals, a paranormal thriller which was launched at the event, Sinha is letting fantasy do all the talking.

The fireworks begin here Established in 1840, Royal Fireworks is one of the oldest firecracker shops in Delhi

SAGAR SHAH & KARISHMA KUENZANG ON QUTAB Road in Sadar Bazar is Royal Fireworks, one of the oldest firecracker shops in Delhi. The owner of the shop, Roop Kishore Srivastav, who is in his fifties, sits reminiscing about his family business while watching the Diwali crowd swamping this old market. For many, bursting crackers on Diwali is a sheer waste of money and causes pollution. However, Srivastav has a different opinion: “When Lord Rama returned from exile to Ayodhya, his devotees burst firecrackers to produce smoke to ward off evil. So, I think it’s perfectly fine to burst crackers.” In 1840, Srivastav’s ancestors established the company, Ram Parshad and Sons, which was primarily a manufacturer of fireworks. His family owned a factory at Azadpur where they designed and produced their own firecrackers. They also used to produce gunpowder for the military. They shifted the factory to Alipur due to lack of space but, eventually, had to close it due to non-availability of good quality chemicals. A family feud ensued, which led to a split. Now, Srivastav says, all that is left is a store in Alipur and two shops in Sadar Bazar — Royal and New Royal. Royal Fireworks stood out from the rest as they produced fireworks that floated on water as well as those that could be burst during the day, apart from their fabulous designs

Multi-shot rockets are a popular item at Royal Fireworks, on Qutab Road, Sadar Bazar. (Right) They were known for designs like the Qutab Minar. PRAVEEN KHANNA

like Chinese Pagodas, Temples of Heaven and the Qutab Minar. Ram Parshad, who started the business, even dedicated one design to Prithviraj Chauhan, during whose reign their family had migrated to Delhi. Their hardwork did not go unnoticed. They were awarded a gold medal and a citation by the government for the quality of their fire-

works. Royal Fireworks has also designed arrangements (patterns in which the firecrackers were lit) for the Kings of Bhutan, Nepal and Afghanistan, as well as the British High Commission for the Guy Fawkes Day and the German Embassy for celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall. Ever since their factory shut

down, they have been getting their supply from Sivakasi, the firecracker hub of the country, in Tamil Nadu. Srivastav says, “Earlier, people used to ask for simple rockets, phooljharis, chakkars and bombs. However, now we have started stocking up multishot rockets, which have 100 to 200 continuous shots. These crackers are in demand and cost around Rs 2,000, far more expensive than the normal firecrackers. The most expensive firecrackers we have this season are the 1,000-shot rockets priced at Rs 8,000, but they are mostly used at weddings.” He says the ‘Cock’ brand is the most popular. Srivastav started helping his father at the shop while he was a child. He went to school in Delhi and aspired to become an IAS officer. However, he gave up his dreams to look after the family business following his father’s death. Now, his daughter, Himani, is following in her father’s footsteps, but on her own terms. “I completed my BCom from Delhi University but did not wish to study further since I’ve always loved to sit at the shop,” she says. Himani is confident that she can run the shop efficiently when the time comes. “I already keep track of the goods in the godown and the shop,” Himani says. Shah and Kuenzang are students of The Express Insititute of Media Studies

GOVERNMENT OF DELHI PRESENTS A MAJOR THEATRE EVENT

TUGHLAQ A PLAY BY GIRISH KARNAD

Smt. Sheila Dikshit Chief Minister, Delhi

DIRECTED BY BHANU BHARTI OCTOBER 28 TO 31 & NOVEMBER 2 TO 4, 2012

7 PM ONWARDS

KOTLA FEROZESHAH, BAHADURSHAH ZAFAR MARG, NEW DELHI 1. ENTRY TO THE SHOW STRICTLY BY INVITATION / SEAT CARD 2. THERE WILL NOT BE A SHOW ON NOVEMBER 1, 2012 3. ENTRY ON FIRST COME FIRST SERVED BASIS

The Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi, Smt. Sheila Dikshit, will be the Chief Guest

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A article on me published in indian Express, Delhi

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