Monday, May 14, 2012

The Indian Avengers in MW, May 2012

In the wake of The Avengers, I was asked to assemble an Indian Counterpart of the Superhero Team by Mans World Magazine for their May 2012 Issue. It was quite a task to pick the best out of the best Superheroes from Indian Comics, still I gave it a shot. I wish I had more time in hands to rake my brains and come up with better options for Hawk-Eye and Maria Hill. Personally I enjoyed making Sabu replace The Incredible Hulk in my list, both of them are known for their angst and hulky-size...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Confessions of an Online Shopper

Lets get one thing very clear - I don’t like to leave the comfort of my work desk. I hate going to shopping malls and stores until and unless its a matter of life & death or something as irresistible as the annual Landmark Sale or The Strand Book Sale.

Reason#1 – I dislike going through shelves after shelves looking for the title I want to buy (because while doing so I always end up buying a lot of titles/things, I was actually not looking for).

Reason#2 – Crowd… I always stay away from it.

Sadly I had to put through this nonsense (read Physical stores) till the mid 2000s, thanks to the super expensive shipping costs levied by websites like Amazon (I still ended up ordering some DVDs from amazon every now and then) or real bad online Indian shopping services like – Rediff (they once sent me a crushed mp3 player in 2004 and never bothered to replace or apologize for it).

Things changed with the advent of, and I just loved it. Now I could order any book as and when it was released. Discounted price and service as good as any international online shopping website - Flipkart became my favorite-st online shopping joint (I didn't visit Landmark Store for almost 6 months after discovering Flipkart). The best thing about them was – They had an amazing – amazing collection of Graphic Novels, something that we all used to crave for. Today as proudly I flaunt my library these days, I also look at the hole in my pocket and blame Flipkart for it. Their service is still impeccable and at times I feel they’ve got aliens working for them ALA the post office sequence in MIB II. I mean how can you explain a neatly packed book (with a bookmark inside) reaching you within less than 24 hours of ordering.

Flipkart is like one of those super tidy girls in your class, who were always prompt with their projects and assignments and just too good to spoiling all the fun for an average joe like you (in this case for all the other online stores) by being Ohh-So-Perfect…. PFFFBBBT!!Huh!
Thanks for spoiling us with your brilliant service Flipkart, this made other online sellers had to pull up their socks. BRAVO!

But when there is competition this tough, other players also have some superb tricks up their sleeves. The next player in the game was In the days when Flipkart was just selling books, we could order DVDs and other Merchandise from infibeam. Also the books were/are available here at better discounts as compared to Flipkart, most of the times. Once, I was overcharged (Almost 50% more as compared to its price on Infibeam) for an ‘Art Of’ book on Flipkart. One phone call (comparing their price with infibeam) later, the good people at Flipkart credited my Flipkart account with the difference. Now I check and compare the prices before I order anything from Flipkart. Though their service is good, but it comes at a price that’s most of the times higher than Infibeam. Second reason to chose infibeam is – Their great collection of out of print books. Most of the time you can get these books from the resellers at a much cheaper price on infibeam – I have ordered C.C.Tsai’s Sunzi Speaks (that has been out of print since 1994) and many other rare to find titles from Infibeam and have got some brilliant discounts on all of them.

Next website, that I tried was, and that was just because they were selling Sandman TPBs for almost 50% off the market price. The service was decent till I got a few books in such a mutilated condition that even my friendly neighborhood raddiwallah will think twice before showing them to me. Anyway, a few phone calls later Indiaplaza replaced the books, but that was it. I recently ordered one more book from them (just to use the discount coupon I had), and their service this time was decent enough to give them another shot. Have ordered one more book (that’s unavailable everywhere else), lets see how they perform this time.

While Flipkart and Infibeam have become my one stop destination for ordering books, DVDs etc. Landmark’s online portal has also been one of the best sites for online shopping. Its just that most of the time discounts here are almost nonexistent as long as they are not having some Superb Online Sale going on. Their Graphic Novel Sale was really out of the world, where else can you get absolute editions at 65% off?. Great service, wish the prices were a little competitive, but definitely worth giving a shot.

Now, lets come to the most interesting website of them all – It was as good as having an in India, you can order anything from using this website and the prices were always reasonable. I have been ordering action figures and other collectibles from amazon, using shopyourworld gateway, for more than two years now. Even though they constantly miss their delivery deadlines, the products always reached me in pristine condition, and I owe a big chunk of my action figure collection and international DVDs to this website. Then there was a hiccup. I had ordered a Tintin figure (The movie merchandise, not Herge’s Tintin) on 20th December 2011, and when it didn’t arrive after almost a month, I decided to get in touch with them. I was shocked to see not only I was unable to get in touch with their customer care execs. but the company had already deleted their twitter account and their facebook page – It was alarming. Online forums were filled with hundreds of complains from the paranoid customers, calling the site a scam and how they had been duped. I was pretty scared too, it was my hard earned money and despite trying to get in touch with SYW I wasn’t able to speak with anyone who could assure me. The phone no. provided on the website would keep playing the IVR saying – All our customer care executives are busy… in loop for several minutes but will never connect you to the exec. I ended up shooting a worried mail to them and one fine day (almost a week after sending the mail), I got an apologetic call from the website stating some logistical problems that they were facing with a promise to fulfill my order by March 13th they also offered me a small discount token on my next purchase. Though the forums are still buzzing with complains, not only Shop Your World fulfilled their promise by sending me the courier before 13th of March but I also got a call from one of their developers Rahil Shah this morning reaffirming that their site is back on track.  
Though I feel, they shouldn’t have avoided the confrontation with the customers by deleting their FB/Twitter accounts, this harms a company’s reputation beyond repair, but as long as they are willing to serve us better I don't mind giving them a second chance. just ordered this one from SYW -

Another new entry in this field is powered by Though we all were really excited to have amazon entering Indian market, the initiative is as good as ordering stuff from amazon, because you still have to pay the exorbitant shipping and duties on your orders, haven’t tried them because of the same reason.

 Let me know about your favorite online shopping portals and do share your good/bad online shopping experiences.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why This Kolaveri Di Over A Fan Art?

STATUTORY WARNING: The write up is quite long, but reading it wont be injurious to anyone’s health.

A few days back, I left my copy of Kirigi Ka Qeher (one of my most favorite comic book titles for past two decades) with Saumin to scan it for Chitrakatha. Unsuspecting Saumin was curiously flipping through pages one night and this comic played exactly the same role that mythical radio-active spider had played in Peter Parker’s life some five decades ago. Before he would realize, Saumin was entangled in the rollercoaster ride of a lifetime called Kirigi Ka Qeher.

Swashbuckling action, epic scale fantasy and one of the ‘tightest’ stories narrated in the history of sequential art – Kirigi Ka Qeher inspired Saumin to do his own version of Super Commando Druve (Yes… yes… I know its Dhruv but Patel calls him Druve).
That very night, not only Saumin drew his own version of the character (as a fan art of course) the daring man also decided to share it with his friends, fans and followers on Facebook and trust me we all loved this new version (with minor inputs dropping in from everywhere). Saumin’s daring act of re-designing one of India’s most favorite Superhero was backed by the most daring and open minded publisher Mr.Sanjay Gupta, who shared it with the (hardcore) Raj Comics fans on the Raj Comics FB page and as they say – all hell broke loose.

While a little fraction of fans was cool with this ‘fan art’ others seemed really offended with this version (may be they were simply scared that Raj Comics is planning a SCD reboot and a costume change ALA DC’s infamous Wonderwoman Costume Reboot). Though this fan art saw a hearty support from the artist community but as its always expected “Fans are a super-irked unforgiving lot, so this new look was able to strike terror/a ting of hatred into their hearts”.

Someone called it a Manga Ripoff, some called it Ben-10 just because of a Cargo-trouser, someone compared the cargo pants to a Dhoti and was obnoxious enough to write a back-story based in a village to mock the look. Looking at the outrage, it made me rethink why fans got so put off with a ‘fan art’. Its more or less the same thing that we all have done as kids after reading a comic book –  getting inspired and try to scribble down our own version of it. No offence meant to any creator or any design that’s already been there. Knowing Saumin personally, I know he was simply kicked and this was his way of saying that the Comic was just awesmackin’ awesome.

Also, Saumin is a fan of X-Men series of movies and he has always appreciated the way they keep playing with the costumes in all their movies or spinoff titles, it was simply his way of trying out a new look for a Superhero, that he’d just discovered.

But there is more to it, X-Men franchise itself has many offshoots and spinoff series that have come out of the original source material so it becomes easier to revamp the look/costumes (out of which many have been ridiculed in the past). But other than X-Men have we seen any mainstream superhero/a superteam getting a brand new look? Even the most popular reboot The Ultimates didn’t see much of a jump in the costumes of lead players like Ironman, though Cap. America’s costume has been evolved a bit, but it hasn’t been that big a jump. Even in DC we’ve seen this happening with characters like Green Lantern etc. Costume evolution is a calculated risk with B-Level characters, who doesn’t have that big a fan following. But the publishers themselves stay away from doing such major changes with their flagship titles and whenever they tried that, sudden uproar of fans pushed them back to their roots.

Such new takes were ridiculed and rejected outright by the fans irrespective of the big names attached to the projects. One great example would be Tim Burton’s unmade Superman Lives with its Disco Superman Costume and the casting of Nicholas Cage, which has been a joke fodder for the fans for more than a decade now. Check out Tim Burton’s vision/costume/look for Superman here: 

Hardcore fans are disappointed again esp. after the ‘leaked’ Man Of Steel images started appearing online. Visionary Director Zack Snyder decided to remove Superman’s iconic red undies from his costume, and people feel that makes the man of steel appear a little ‘nude’ (I totally agree). While fans loved Snyder’s choice of campy costumes in Watchmen (not to be forgotten, Watchmen was based in the 1980s and that was the color pallete of those years, remember the early 1990s Batman films with cheesy colorful costumes?), they immensely dislike his choice of costume in The Man of Steel, lets hope he has a storyline to support his vision this time as well.

Now the Million $ question – Why it irks the fans, when they see their heroes in a new (rebooted) costume?
‘Please don’t kill my hero…’
Being a fanboy, I can totally understand this sentiment. I used to be a Bheriya fan, but as soon as a storyline was introduced in which Bheriya the Hero was divided into two entities – Kobi & Bheriya, it was the death of Bheriya as I knew him. I can’t even recall the number of hate mails I’d sent to Mr.Sanjay Gupta that summer. ‘You killed my hero’. The way I looked at his stories died with him, an entire series was suddenly meaningless, because they just changed the characters all of a sudden. I can go ranting about many such reboots or redesigning of characters that pushed me away from comics series I had been an ardent fan of. I have my sentiments attached to a hero and as soon as someone tries to change or tweak it in a way that renders the earlier stories outdated, I am going to DISLIKE it. Because no matter what the creator (artist/writer) had in mind, he just tried to push me out of my comfort zone by trying to tweak my hero/heroine. I know we have to renew the material to get fresh readers in, but that doesn’t mean we should toss away the sentiments of our existing readers. It can be achieved with new powerful stories. A DKR or a Year One can make me a Batman fan and I can always go back and read the classic Batman without even demanding a reboot in its design or stories. Today’s Raj Comics readers (many of them who were born after Mr. Anupam Sinha took over Nagraj) wont mind going back and trying to get a flavour of Late Mr.Mulick’s Nagraj. Why? Because even though Mr.Sinha changed Nagraj entirely he didn’t let the old mythology slip away and this is the blueprint that creators today have to follow and get fresh readers interested in these comic books. Though as a Publisher Raj Comics has changed the looks of Tiranga in the past and are coming out with two spinoff Nagraj series, but fans have been an unforgiving lot with these spinoffs and no matter what, you don’t wanna mess with the Fans.

I remember Quintin Tarentino’s interview in a special issue of Wizard, where he said, he doesn’t want to direct a Superhero film because he isn’t comfortable with fans’ expectations that comes with all the existing Superhero franchises, but he also added that, he would love to create his own superhero to make a movie with.

We can learn a lot from the smartass Tarentino. Fan favorite writer Mark Millar has learnt a lot from him. Rather than trying to reboot/redesign any ongoing series, Millar very smartly created his own universe with his own version of spinoffs. We are walking a thin line here, and we can learn a lot from Directors like Nolan and Jim Cameron who have tweaked the storylines a lot but never tried changing a costume.  

If you’ve read Cameron’s unmade Spiderman Scriptment, you will realize that even a badass director like Jim Cameron wouldn’t like to cross that thin line and face the wrath of hardcore fans. While Mr.Cameron himself says Spidey’s costume is goofy and wasn’t very keen on having Spidey’s webshooters from the comics (Cameron gave him the biological webshooters, that was later used by Raimi in all his films) but Cameron made sure that the webshooter from Spidey’s costume is still there and totally justified its presence (How? Check out the scriptment page with storyboards here.

Lesson learnt: You don’t mess with the superhero costumes and don’t piss off the fans even if your name happens to be James Cameron, and you are the hotshot director of T:2.

Another example would be Steven Spielberg who was really interested in doing a Superman movie once, but later refused the offer politely and moved on to direct Close Encounters, E.T. and Indiana Jones (creating his own Superhero). He came back to direct a film based on a comic book character much later with The Adventures of Tintin (2011), though he was developing it since as early as 1982. Despite being a totally enjoyable adventure extravaganza many Tintin fans have disliked Spielberg’s version of Tintin (While I started seeing Tintin in a new light post -  Spielbergian Tintin and have started finding it much more exciting). Though Spielberg took liberty with the story, he retained Tintin’s classic look intact. Why? Coz he wasn’t ready to face the Kolaveri of Tintin fans.

But then you might have to change the costume/look a bit to make your hero work in some other medium like Animation or Movies, may be fans might be a little more forgiving when they see these little changes in animation or a film. Personally speaking I would love to tweak/rewrite a lot of characters, but I would rather do that in my Universe with my own characters and earn some new fans. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chitrakatha in The Sunday Guardian

Another brlliant story on our Documentary Film: Chitrakatha appeared in last Sunday's The Sunday Guardian. Click on the image for a hi-res version and let me know how did you like it?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chitrakatha: 10 minutes Rough Cut

A 10 minutes rough preview cut from our documentary Chitrakatha

Feel free to share on your pages/profiles/blogs. And let us know what do you think about it.


Monday, July 18, 2011

The write up for Dainik Bhaskar

Being brought up in Central India, I remember starting my mornings with DAINIK BHASKAR, one of the most circulated Hindi Dailies in India. And after so many years, when I was asked by an Editor friend to write a Sunday Special News Feature on Lifestyle for Dainik Bhaskar's front page - I couldn't resist the offer and here's the piece that appeared in more than 60+ Editions of Dainik Bhaskar all over India. Trust me, it gives a high to see your name and write up appearing on the first page of a news paper you've grown up with. Click on the image to read the write up:

My Documentary Chitrakatha featured in FHM July 2001 Issue

I remember hiding issues of FHM from my parents as it always used to feature scantily clad girls. Thankfully the Indian edition of the magazine is a bit considerate when it comes to such things (besides our starlets don't really believe in exposing for the Desi version that much). But this month came with a FHM Flaunting moment for me - FHM India featured a one page article on my Documentary Chitrakatha, for those who are unaware about the project can catch up with us on our Facebook page.
Meanwhile, enjoy the article here, click on the image for a readable size.

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