Depicting ‘Kalyug’ through a Graphic Novel
Roy Soumyadipta is an artist and an animator with 8 years of experience in the animation, film and TV industry, working on films like Harry Potter, Disney’s John Carter, Brad Pitt’s World War Z. He has also illustrated comic books including Stan Lee’s Chakra the Invincible. Currently he is working on his second original graphic novel with his wife Riddhi; ‘Winter Child’ is about a post-apocalyptic take on Kalyug. A mix of science fiction and Indian mythology, this project largely depends on crowd funding through Indian crowdfunding platform Wishberry. NT BUZZ speaks to Roy who has made Goa his home to work on this project
Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ
Q: What is the purpose of this graphic novel especially when there are so many options from entertainment to choose from?
The aim was to have a fresh science fiction take on Indian mythology and to explore a dystopian retelling of some of the prophecies of Kalyug. We want to create a graphic novel, to reach children wherever they are – in school, or private classes, or at home when its play time with friends.
Q: What phase is the project currently in?
The project is half done. It was a long journey completing the research, the story and the concept art. The rough sketches are of 150 pages and we have started illustrating them. We have completed 14 pages and are now working hard to finish illustrating the remaining.
Q: Why did you opt for crowdfunding for this graphic novel?
The investors were ready to invest lakhs into this project but they wanted to take over the intellectual property rights too. As I have plans to make this into an animated series or a movie in the near future, I was not ready to let go of this project. Animation Production studios were interested in taking the concept to TV (believing in my idea) but then again I was afraid of any alteration in the story and characters. This book is a poetic expression of my thoughts, and I wish to present it in its original form.
Q: Why have you based it on the distant future?
I had chosen the topic of Kalyug. And since it is a prophecy of a probable future on mankind, I want to take a science fictions take on that. Keeping in mind how science has been progressing, and how the global conditions appear to be, perhaps the Kalyug may just be what we might have to face.
Kalyug predicts that mankind will become an enemy to itself. There will be so much poverty and corruption, that humans may as well just begin to feed on humans.
NASA is already predicting an Ice Age with their in-ice age theory. If so, I ask myself as a storyteller, how will they grow crops, how will they produce heat, how will preserve water, etc. Will the lack of resources really turn man to turn into demons?
Q: What is it like to work as an animator?
The joy of bringing a fictional puppet to life is simply amazing. The work atmosphere is similar to any work space. But at the end of the day, it’s a pleasure to know that we created something from our own ideas.
Q: Tell us about your experiences working for movies like Harry Potter, John Carter, World War Z?
It was again an absolute pleasure. I was working for Moving Picture Company (MPC Bangalore). It was my first job. And the very first shot they put on was the shot in Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part 2 when Harry drove that fang to destroy Ravenclaw’s horcrux. While working for John Carter, we experienced the industrial work culture, where Taylor Kitch would swing his sword around an empty green screen arena, which was later transformed into a fight between hundreds of Martians on mars. We learn how to address senior directors; we learn how 3D models are incorporated on actors for VFX manipulation (like Voldomort’s nose). The sad part is that we enjoy the theatrical release much less than a general audience.
Q: How did you get into the field of illustration and animation?
Firstly, I want to thank my parents. I was never the top student in class and also my parents were never pushy about it. They never demanded for 90 per cent on my report card and acknowledged my knack in art. In fact, my father went ahead and researched on his own about a career in art and animation. I am lucky I had parents who absorbed multiple criticisms from people for not following the general drill of investing in the child to become a doctor or engineer. I was put in Arena for an overview of the career. Later I was put in MAAC Kolkata to learn advance cinematics, and finally in TAAKSHA Bangalore for specialisation. Soon after my qualifications with mostly A+ in the animation college, I applied for MPC Bangalore and began my career.
While working for MPC, I was also working on my first original comic book Death Retainer published by Diamond Comics India at Delhi Comic Con 2012. That opened the door to international comic books, animation and storyboarding opportunities.
Q: What is the scope for animation in a market like India, which is crazy for the Khans, Kapoors, songs, and dances?
It’s fresh and huge. Truth to be told, many Indian artists are working with various Hollywood production houses. We are just 70 years old as a country, Hollywood is much older. We have been through Akhand Bharat to British India to Independent India now. So, we probably need to be a bit patient.
Q: How do you and your wife work together as a team?
She’s the boss. She and I formed this idea over a debate. She had a religious perspective and I had a science-fiction perspective. Over a course of conversation and reading on Google, Wikipedia and NASA’s website, we found a correlation between the two opposite sides of the debate. For example, Indian Mythology says that Lord Vishnu arrived in this world with the Matsya avatar, Kurma (Tortoise) avatar, and finally a human avatar. While science tells us – and we already know that life began on earth from marine life like fish. Slowly life started reaching towards land and took form of the ancestors of tortoise, etc and then finally we evolved into humans. It is predicted in Kalyug that humans will get shorter in size. Greek mythology tells about tall titans who once ruled the earth – are we really getting shorter without a visible knowledge? So we started reading and researching about it. Since I had a background in animation, comic books, and concept art, I decided that we can make this into a one story graphic novel first and approach studios for making this into an animated series of a movie in the near future. I had worked with actors in Tollywood: Vishnu Manchu, Mohan Babu, Majob Manchu, Laxmi Manchu. Once the book is made, I would approach them for the idea of movies.
Q: Why a post-apocalyptic genre?
As per my knowledge there is no post-apocalypse stories based in India. Bollywood has been making so many movies. Writers have written so many love stories. But none have created any sort of post-apocalyptic story especially with a science fiction take on Kalyug. Since I have the industrial experience, why don’t I start taking baby steps for one?