Author: Sumit Kumar
Illustrator: Sumit Kumar
Published: 2015 by Horizon Books
No. of Pages: 160
Subthemes: Origins of Naxalism in India; Naxalbari uprising
A satirical and an unequivocal take on Naxalism in India, the graphic novel traces the origin of Naxalism without any “left”, “right”, or “center” biases. Delivered through an allegorical narration which primarily capitalizes on George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the book is divided into three parts—Amar Bari, Tomar Bari, NAXALBARI, The Red Corridor Part 1, and The Red Corridor Part 2.
The narration kickstarts with a direct reference to George Orwell’s take on revolutions-Animal Farm. Although the major timeline the novel traces is from 1964 to 2013, the first page opens in 1903, beginning with Orwell’s birth. After a very brief visual introduction to Orwell’s birthplace in Motihari, there is a sudden jump of 64 years and we are introduced to an animal farm built at the same place. The introduction to the main plot is delivered through a conversation between animals and tries to be pun-heavy while using the symbolic capitalist pig from the Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Most of the story is narrated by an old wise-looking Owl and is often rife with puns, satirical caricatures, lyrics of popular Bollywood songs, famous tv hosts, singers, tv hosts, and moves. This is complemented by the heavily informative nature of the storytelling, and what comes out is a convincingly taut narrative which can hold the reader’s attention across all the three parts of the graphic novel.
The research and storyboarding feel exemplary here as the author captures a very large chunk of Naxal movements in India, beginning from the likes of Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri. Parallel to this is an emphasis to capture the reaction of people to these movements and also the act of their mobilization by leaders like Charu Mazumdar.
As suggested by the title, the development till and through the Naxalbari uprising feels very powerful especially considering how various layers of narration never attenuate or are overpowered by any other layer.
Sumit, the author, continues the same approach in the second and third part of the graphic novel.
The starting point here is interestingly 1903 and the scene opens in the bungalow of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Through a fast-paced narration, the reader is informed about the famous “Operation Polo” and also the origins of the communist forces in Telangana. Stylistically narration remains the same as the first part and is informative while being satirical.
Parallels are drawn between the Naxalbari uprising and the ones in Telangana. Although centered mostly around Velma, the second part is discursive yet coherent in its approach. It travels through Velma’s ambitions, court hearings, satirical panels on the emergency as well as other Congress leaders, and NTR’s rise to power finally converging in a series of brilliant folk-art inspired panels on Dandakaranya region. Panels on Dandakaranya, although extremely different in art, capture the Adivasi essence effectively while capturing the parallels between Dandakaranya and previous two communist uprisings.
Largely a scathing satire on the mining scams of India and how it all ties up with the communist movement. The third part is in congruence with the first two parts and perhaps houses some of the funniest panels in the entire book.
In a rather small section as compared to the other two, the author covers quite a significant chunk of scams, Naveen Jindal, Reddy Brothers of Bellary, and Anil Agarwal of Vedanta.
One can easily run out of adjectives for how clever, humorous, and brilliant some of the panels are, making them one of the finest amongst Indian Graphic Novels.
Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta is caricatured as a superhero to a point, where the author breaks the fourth wall and calls himself Sumit Soldout Kumar.
The storyline captures such fine details despite the short length of the section like- suicides by paramilitary forces personnel, the role of politicians and capitalist forces, and of the politician Mahendra Karma.
One particularly funny panel is a dig at decision and policy-making, here Anu Malik, Indira Gandhi, and Maharaja Hari Singh are shown as judges, much like a reality show . As a part of this satire, the reader also gets a comprehensive list of songs plagiarized by Anu Malik along with the names of their original sources.
Apart from some allegory, the author has used satire and traditional comic grammar to comment on serious issues.