Graphic Fiction is always a must-read. More so if it is based in your country. You somehow then can relate to everything it has to offer - from sarcasm to the country's landscape to the nuances known only to another Indian. When you tell these stories through graphic fiction, it becomes even more interesting and that's what PAO - The Anthology of Comics 1, published by Penguin India is all about.
There are all elements in these beautifully crafted 12 graphic stories by well-known illustrators and storytellers and some just surfacing on the scene. PAO is collaboration between graphic novelists Amitabh Kumar, Sarnath Banerjee, Orijit Sen, Vishwajyoti Ghosh and Parismita Singh. They have selected the 12 stories featured in this anthology and each one is stylistically distinct and unique from the other.
I remember waiting eagerly to read this one. I am a great lover of Graphic Fiction and have enjoyed Sarnath Banerjee and Amruta Patil's (who surprisingly doesn't feature here) works. Honestly these two were the only Indian Graphic novelists who came to my mind before reading this book. Today however, I know of a lot more comic fiction writers.
The collection starts off with a simple story and yet defining the way our society thinks and works today through "Tattoo" - cleverly written and illustrated by Jacob Weinstein and Lakshmi Indrasimhan. The second story is, "Plasmoids", written by Samit Basu and illustrated beautifully by Orijit Sen, about alien life on earth and one of my personal favourites in the collection.
The idea of visual language is something which is picking up like none other form of communication, not only internationally but also in India. There is a lot going around in the world and maybe that is where from these storytellers get their ideas. For instance, "The Pink" by Salil Chaturvedi and Priya Kuriyan speaks of alienation in our society and what it means to be accepted when you are different or feel different. PAO centers on a lot of themes - from individuality to pre-liberalization India to religion to Hindus and Offal which is a sarcastic take on what we eat by Ambarish Satwik and Pia Alize Hazarika.
My most favourite story in the collection has to be, "Helmetman in Zamzamabad" by Raj Comics and Amitabh Kumar. It is reminiscent of a 70's movie - thriller and drama rolled into one. It had everything that can make the story extend itself and it will. I am sure it will be a full-length graphic novel.
For me this collection would have been complete, had Amruta Patil been included but having said that, this collection is definitely a page-turner. It doesn't take long to finish this book, considering the length of the stories and the fact that they are in graphic format. At the same time, the reader will probably re-read some of the stories (like I did) and ponder over them long after the book has been finished with. PAO is a first step to more anthologies like this one and it is time for us to be introduced to more intelligent and interesting graphic fiction.
Title: PAO: The Anthology of Comics 1; Publisher: Penguin Group; Author: Ambarish Satwik, Amitabh Kumar, Ikroop Sandhu; No. of Pages: 304