A new comic celebrates Mumbai's vivid underground street culture and graffiti through a lesser fortunate teenager's story
While the illustrations for Black Mumba were black and white, Grafity's Wall is in colour
Dark, grotesque, grungy. That's how Mumbai illustrator Anand Radhakrishnan likes his comics. In 6458, when London-based writer and graphic novelist Ram Venkatesan approached him for Black Mumba, an anthology of crime noir short stories set in the city, the pitch seemed perfect. Portrayed in 5974s blackwhite noir style, his art had to blend with Ve n k a t e s a n's eerie lines.
Once again, the two have collaborated on a comic set in Mumbai, but it's one that explores our underground graffiti and street culture in all its vividness. It's the story of a teenager's love for graffiti in squalor. "Unlike Black Mumba, this one is more colourful, light hearted and peppered with humour. Of course, there's a bit about drugs, crime and romance but it's all woven in a manner that does not make the narrative bleak," says Radhakrishnan, who has, to his credit, designed the book covers for Brigands comics.
Grafity's Wall captures the underground graffiti culture in all its vividness
For Venkatesan, the idea came during a talk by Tristan Eaton, a graffiti artist and street art muralist from London. "Eaton's work has wild illustration elements. And I felt I could employ them in the story because Mumbai is such a colourful city, full of character," says Venkatesan, author of the popular Aghori graphic novel series, and a Mumbaikar himself.
The five chapters revolve around a teenager’s love for graffiti art
Interestingly, their collaboration began on Facebook. "I happened to find out about Radhakrishnan through an acquaintance a couple of years ago. I sent him a Facebook message, and that's how it all began," says Venkatesan, who has previously worked with him on Radio Apocalypse, a comic about a radio station operating in a postapocalypse world. In fact, it was this book that Venkatesan wanted to pitch to publishers, Unbound, but on hearing the story of Grafity's Wall, they evinced more interest in it.
For Radhakrishnan, this was a good opportunity to experiment with colour and draw children, which he rarely does. He explains, "In fact, I wanted to keep it black and white like the earlier novel because it's difficult to translate Mumbai's vibrancy in colour. We can't do it justice. But Ram wanted it to have colour so that it's more slice of life."