India Dreams

India Dreams is a French graphic novel in four volumes by Maryse Charles and Jean Francois Charles that is translated to English and published by OM books. The book tells a tale that spans three generations, set mostly in India from 1920s to 1960s.

The story of India Dreams is a mix of intrigues and mysteries in the times of Raj, political propagandas, secret groups, a bit of legends and fantasy, and multiple love stories of different generations that stitch the different time lines together. What I liked in the book was the artwork - The colorful illustrations of various exotic landscapes from India and Nepal were brilliant.

Karie

Watched Karie, Malayalam film directed by Naranipuzha Shanavas, who passed away recently. The film shows two Malayalees, Gopu and Bilal, traveling to a rural village of North Kerala. Gopu works in Oman, and Dineshan, one of his colleagues (or his employee?) in Oman is waiting for his visa to become permanent. Gopu and Bilal visit Dineshan's aging parents in his village. They realize that his parents are about to conduct a ritualistic vazhipadu involving a "karingali" performance on the next day at a local temple, for getting Dineshan established in his job. Because of various circumstances, Gopu and Bilal are stuck at the place, and they are having to take a lead on organizing the karingali vazhipadu.

I liked Karie for the way some of its bizarre imagery (like a karingali performer in full costumes running through the grass growing on dried up path of Nila river) is quite naturally integrated into a script that is very realistic. The director doesn't try to "explain" things, so we get a feel of watching a few scenes from the lives of the people involved, and are left to imagine some aspects connecting them. The film also aims to give subtle commentaries on social aspects like "caste sensitivity" in Kerala, so we are having to make our own deductions on Gopu's attitude towards the rituals, his behavior at Dineshan's home, and so on. Here too, the director just shows us the visuals and stays away without making any direct statements via background music or otherwise. I liked this freedom given to viewers, and the overall approach to film-making the director had.

Jerusalem

In his brilliant graphic novel Jerusalem - Chronicles from the Holy City, author Guy Delisle narrates an year he spent with family in Jerusalem (mostly in the Eastern part of it), during 2008-09, when his wife served for the NGO called MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières - Doctors without Borders) in Israel. Guy Delisle uses the opportunity to explore the ancient and colorful city (and its surroundings), sketching and documenting what he saw. The illustrations are simple but very effective (very similar to his another book, Hostage).

The book reminded me of Joe Sacco's graphic novel Palestine, which narrated the times of 1991-92. Joe Sacco had a journalistic approach and he more abundantly and pro-actively explored the refugee camps, interacting with many Palestinians during the relatively shorter duration of his trip (apparently, we see him landing up right in the middle of some serious conflicts at times in his book). Unlike him, Guy Delisle leads a normal man's life supporting family, looking after kids and giving occasional lectures on his art to students at various places, etc. and it seems like whatever remaining time he had, he spent on checking out many of the famous as well as lesser known landmarks around Jerusalem. Even though he doesn't purposefully go out to find out and describe the realities of the Palestine conflict like Joe Sacco, he documents whatever he experienced as part of his day-to-day activities, and the picture that emerges clearly is that the situation hadn't changed much since Sacco's book.

Minari

Watched Minari, a touching film that tells the story of a Korean immigrant family in 1980s United States. Jacob and Monica, husband and wife, work at a chicken farm to make a living. But Jacob aspires to become a farmer specializing in Korean vegetables, so they buy some land in a rural area and move to there, living in a caravan housing with their two children. Monica doesn't like the settings in the village a bit, and she wants to move to California, which she believes would be good for their children. So, they have to make a choice.

While the film portrays the hardships, personal conflicts, etc., it also has a heart-warming portrayal of the relationship between the grandmother (Monica's aging mother, who arrives from Korea to support the family) and her grandson. I was amused to note that the situations, emotions and cultural aspects portrayed in the film would have been equally applicable even if the characters were portrayed as Indians.

Gomer Goof

Had some fun reading the Gomer Goof comic series during the holidays with son. Don't recollect reading any of these before; We had a lot of laughs reading about Gomer and his inventions.

Harishchandrachi Factory

Marathi film Harishchandrachi Factory tells the story of Dadasaheb Phalke as he makes Raja Harishchandra, India's first film in 1913.

I remember watching Celluloid, Malayalam film which told the story of JC Daniel, who had made the first Malayalam film. Celluloid followed a serious approach to its narrative, giving additional focus on social issues, etc., which I think is what is more of an expected style for such a theme. However, Harishchandrachi Factory has a very light-hearted narration style, and it shows the events associated with the making of Raja Harishchandra with touches of gentle humor. It is an interesting film to watch.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Over the weekend, read the graphic novel adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, illustrated by Fred Fordham. The illustrations are brilliant, and I liked the way the ambiance of a 1930 Alabama village is brought out in pictures with details, including the way the tree leaves make patterns on the faces of people and other objects (seems like this is a favorite area of the artist - as we see this in many of the pictures in the book).

Many of the dialogues and even the organization of some of the frames in the graphic novel looked to be following the 1962 film based on the same book. However, the graphic novel spends more time to portray the children - their innocence, naughtiness and adventures as seen through the eyes of six year old Scout, and overall I found the graphic novel to be more enjoyable than the film.

Chhotu

Read the graphic novel Chhotu - A Tale of Partition and Love by Varud Gupta and Ayushi Rastogi. The story is set in the times of India's Partition, and narrates the events in the life of Chhotu, an orphan boy who was adopted by Bapu, owner of a Parantha shop at Chandni Chowk, Delhi. Chhotu falls in love with Heer, his classmate, but their affair is short-lived as Heer is having to move to Pakistan after the Partition. Soon, Chhotu gets pulled into various socio-political affairs, and he also learns a few secrets about his past.

I found Chhotu to be very mediocre. Though some aspects of Partition come in the backdrop, most of its story looked like a typical Bollywood revenge drama with some philosophical musings added here and there to emphasize on how Fear is planted in the minds of people to take advantage of them. Taking cues from Art Spiegelman's classic Maus, or even the recent Indian graphic novel Munnu, the characters are drawn with various animal faces, and Chottu sports a monkey-face. The illustrations appear to be stylized to give a somewhat flattened appearance to images (which reminded me of films by Wes Anderson). Though they look different, I personally was not very impressed with the drawings.

Carnet de Voyage

After the success of Blankets, artist Craig Thompson traveled to Europe during March-May 2004, giving interviews and signing his books, taking part in book exhibitions, and meeting with his friends and fellow cartoonists. He also took a three week solo trip to Morocco during this period, to experience the old medinas and the Sahara desert, which formed the backdrop of his later work, Habibi. In the graphic novel Carnet de Voyage, Craig Thompson narrates his travel experiences in parts of France, Spain and Morocco. I read the 2018 extended edition of the book, which contains additional pages that briefly narrate his 2016 visit to France, meeting up with some of his friends (the little kids he had played with during his 2004 trip and who were illustrated in several pages of the original book, have grown tall now).

Carnet de Voyage is not just a travelogue, as Craig Thompson mixes them with his thoughts, reflecting on his own persona and past experiences. This intense personal touch makes the book much different from other travel oriented graphic novels (like Palestine by Joe Sacco). The sketches in the book are detailed and beautiful.

New Kid

New Kid is graphic novel written by Jerry Craft in which he narrates the experiences of an African American boy named Jordan, as he joins a prestigious private school in the first form. Jordan wanted to join an art school, but his parents enroll him in a regular school instead, telling that it would be "good for his future". Jordan finds it a bit difficult to fit into the system initially, where "colored" students are a small minority, and get a differential treatment in subtle ways. However, as days progress, he finds friends and starts liking his school. He gains confidence, and by the year end, he becomes one of the most popular students of his class.

New Kid is a feel good and interesting read. The illustrations cant be called exactly as brilliant, but they do the job, and are apt for the light narrative style of the book.