As the co-founder and CEO of Graphic India, Sharad Devarajan is a man on a mission: a mission to bring Indian storytelling to the world through comics and animation. He’s had an impressive start so far, with Grant Morrison’s 18 Days introducing an ancient Indian narrative to the Western world.
We caught up with Sharad to chat about the comics that inspired him and what he’s learnt from them. But first…
Give us a taste of what you’ll be discussing at SURGE.I’ll be discussing the “Rise of the Indian Superhero” and how with 600 million people under the age of 25, the youth of India are ready to transform not only India’s entertainment landscape but also the world.
Despite having the world’s largest youth market, India has one of the smallest shares of the annual US$100 Billion global character and entertainment licensing industry.
The next JK Rowling, Steven Spielberg, Stan Lee or Miyazaki is sitting somewhere in India and our responsibility as a country is to find these young talents, nurture them and give them the training, resources and belief in themselves to take their ideas to the world. After all – long before James Cameron created Avatar, India was the first country that gave the world a blue-skinned hero with a bow and arrow.
Which comic book character resonated with you most growing up and why?I vividly recall the first time I read the legendary 1978, Silver Surfer graphic novel by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby – I was hooked. Stan opened the book with quote from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, which set the tone that this character more than just a silver guy with a surfboard. It was a cosmic superhero story that challenged us to search for the big mysteries of life. Who are we? What is the purpose of our existence? What is the destiny of mankind and how does it end? Not the typical questions found in a comic book, at least not before Stan and his amazing partners.
18 Days is based on the Mahabharata, an ancient Indian text. Do you feel extra pressure to do the story justice since it’s so important culturally and historically?The Mahabharata is arguably the greatest story ever told and has defined much of eastern philosophy and thought in the same way the Odyssey and the Iliad defined the West.
Having been influenced by this myth from a very young age, it has been a personal passion of mine to find a way to bring it to audiences worldwide in a powerfully visual and engaging experience that captures the deep complexity and ambiguity of its characters and world. Great stories like the Mahabharata don’t belong to any one culture, they belong to the world.
Our goal is not to tell a literal retelling of the classic Mahabharata, but rather to allow some of the world’s greatest creators to collaborate across borders and across cultures to speak to the world in the primal language of myth. This is a story that goes beyond generations and beyond cultures, paying homage to the story’s origins while also showing the world a dynamic new vision of gods and war. Think Lord of the Rings meets Avatar and then times that by ten!
Finally, what is the most important life lesson you’ve learnt from a comic book?Heroes never give up… and neither do entrepreneurs.
See Sharad speak at SURGE, plus many more. Sign up for 2 tickets for the price of 1.