Thursday, January 12, 2006

"Devi and Sadhu"

Meet the new Virgin Comics Hero and Heroine; possibly coming to your local comic book store in the near future. Who are they and where are they from? This is where it gets interesting.

One of the world's greatest stories, India's Ramayana, is being retold as a post-apocalyptic comic book, in "Ramayana Reborn", with an animated television spinoff for kids titled "The Seven Sounds". This is the brainchild of the newly launched Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation, an entertainment partnership between British billionaire Richard Branson, bestselling New Age author Deepak Chopra, film director Shekhar Kapur and India's leading licenser of comic books, Gotham Entertainment Group. They have already brought "Spider-Man" and "X-Men" to Delhi and Bombay. Their chief creative officer is Gotham Chopra, Deepak's 30 year-old son.

Ramayana is the Eastern equivalent of the Odyssey or Lord of the Rings. "Shakti" means "power" in Hindi and "Devi" means "goddess". Chopra describes her as "Asia's first superwoman. She wears the different faces of the goddess. On the one hand she plays the typical submissive Asian housewife, on the other hand she's Angelina Jolie." Another storyline concerns a 19th century English soldier who becomes a disciple of a "sadhu" or Indian wise man, who trains him to become a spiritual warrior. (snatch the pebble...)

The plan is to publish comics in the U.S., Japan and, of course, in India, not a traditional comic powerhouse but where there will be an estimated 550 million teenagers by the year 2015. Branson, a big western billionaire, recognizes the future of entertainment is in the East, not necessarily in Hollywood but "Bali-wood". (Indonesia too, I guess) Despite the fact that India has a mature entertainment business, with movies and sports, it has had no comic business. They are doing what Manga (Japanese) is doing. Marvel has made twice as much money licensing superheroes to movies than on the sale of comic books. Maybe they have to start with the "pulp" before the cellulose. Part of the reason comics have not yet flourished in India has been the lack of distribution and the absence of superstores like Barnes & Nobel.

Deepak Chopra is very much involved, says his son. "A lot of people, like my father and Shakur, they're tired of India being relegated to being this "backroom", this place for "outsourcing". They felt that India has this incredible pool of talent and they wanted to be part of a "Creative Renaissance". Deepak is writing a novel on the life of Buddha and Gotham wants to do the companion graphic novel.

My "take" on this, having read a smattering of Chopra's works and other like sources, is that there is great wisdom, "Vedic Wisdom" in so much of the Indian folkloric traditions and religions; "old age, not just New Age". The "masses" of the "sub-continent", especially current generation and up-coming generations are unaware and uninformed about it's much more ancient wisdom...and could care less about it. I once had an Indian boy in my class, directly from Calcutta. Betty and I were invited to his home to meet his family and have a wonderful dinner of their specially "spicy" dishes. They were so eagar to please and learn of our culture and yet knew very little of their own, its traditions and wisdoms. They just wanted to "make it" here and the boy wanted to be "accepted" in class, he didn't have a clue and was mostly the class "scapegoat". Would this kid have responded to the "lessons" of a comic book or graphic novel about his lost culture? Maybe...but probably not here in America. The "images" of his homeland was what he was trying to leave behind with his father's new employment here. They, that family, wanted the "American Dream" and our cultural heroes, not Ramayana's. This was also around the time of the huge popularity of "Dungeons and Dragons" from a somewhat European tradition. At least one of my sons at the time was really into that. When I think back, even I had those interests as a kid. I "liked" silent weapons and knights and armor Arthurian Legends etc. I had an "armor tree" in the backyard where I hung the crude "weapons" I tried to make and play with. I wasn't allowed a "b-b gun" so I made a bow and arrow and got in "big trouble" when my mom cause me trying to kill a bird. She broke the bow in front of me. This was my brush with "ancient wisdom" and just look how I turned out...Bob!


At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Bette said...

I sure don't remember that incident. Where was I? Our mom could be quite formidable!

At 1:18 PM, Blogger BOB! Your Life Preserver said...

It was on the back stoop of the den and it was "unwitnessed". Yes,..."she who must be obeyed" I didn't hit or kill the bird but she saw me do it and that was that. Bob


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