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Orijit Sen and Vidyun Sabhaney

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First hand: Graphic Non-Fiction from India

What is it about non-fiction writing that makes it scream out loud from the shelves, calling for your attention and intervention in important issues that concern us in different ways? These screams are now louder than ever, as the brightest and boldest voices from different disciplines bring out their portion of truth through the new books lined up this year. Josy Joseph pens what is perhaps India’s biggest exposé in recent times, with a sweeping narrative that blows the cover off the corporate and the corrupt. William Dalrymple picks up on the Kohinoor where history as we know left it, and also takes on the mammoth task of tracing the global political machinery that was the great East India Company. Orijit Sen along with Vidyun Sabhaney makes way for comics journalism with his new graphic anthology. Tavleen Singh digs up the dirt on Nehru’s promised land, and Saeed Naqvi narrates the bitter tale of being a Muslim in India no matter the powers or the good life. Whether it’s history, biography, political commentary, reportage, memoir, in-depth investigation or visual narrative, India’s golden age of non-fiction is here to stay.
Excerpts from our interview with Orijit Sen and Vidyun Sabhaney.

Why comic non-fiction?
Orijit: I think the comic as a medium works very well in telling non-fiction stories. Comics can take us into the kind of spaces that reportage in the general sense of video and photography cannot go. That is because comics are drawn, and therefore, the truth is being told through a subjective lens. Everything that you draw is thought through very closely. In that sense, it’s a more personal truth, and it’s a deeper truth. With comics, you are actually engaging with each image to interpret it, and projecting your imagination into that space. It’s a very powerful aspect of this medium, one that I first discovered while reading Tintin when I was 12 years old.

Tell us a bit about First Hand: Graphic Non-Fiction from India.
Vidyun: This is a collection of 22 graphic stories that emerge from our environment; stories that address social, ecological and historical concerns. There was a need to bring out the truth because a lot is not coming out in mainstream media, and with this book we’ve tried to bring stories of people who are on-ground, researching and investigating these important issues. The book is divided into sub-sections: biography, autobiography, reportage, oral history, documentary and commentary.

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