In the crowded streets of Mumbai, every face could be a story worth telling. And the unique hum of India’s most famous Metro is the inspiration behind the upcoming graphic novel ‘Black Mumba’ by popular writer Ram Venkatesan and a phenomenal team of Indian artists. The idea was born from a noir short story called ‘Dead Rain’ that was published by Sawdust Press in 2012. This collaboration between Ram and artist Kishore Mohan then became the foundation of the new 100 page graphic journey.
Within the Indian Comic scene, noir style publications are rare and ‘Black Mumba’ will be one of the few comics in its genre. Ram credits ‘The New York Trilogy’ by Paul Auster as a major inspiration behind the styling of the novel and one of his motivations for trying his hand at a similar project. He realised that securing backers would be a risky affair as the content of the book was incredibly unique. This fear was substantiated when he hit a wall trying to pitch the concept to publishers but determined and confident in their work, the team handed the fate of their creation over to the public and started a Kickstarter campaign to fund the release.
While the novel is artistically noir, Ram is adamant that ‘It has a noir aesthetic but nothing else you would expect from a noir story’. The noir genre is typified by crime, mystery and violence (think ‘Sin City’ and you’ll get it right) but ‘Black Mumba’ takes an entirely new approach. The four short stories that make up the novel are based in the human experience, telling the stories of regular people seen through the eyes of a weary police officer. The raw narrative with the striking monochrome imagery creates an atmosphere that captures the essence of the city.
They are set for a worldwide release and Ram has no doubt that although Mumbai is the focal point, this novel will have International appeal. ‘Good stories are about what they are fundamentally. You’ll find elements that are typically Mumbai but the stories are accessible to everyone’, says Ram. He believes that all the stories have angles that people can relate to, irrespective of their nationality.
Although the stories are designed to connect with the readers on a human level the book itself is a quiet ode to Mumbai. Ram grew up in the city and although he is no longer based here, the city has stayed with him. The title itself delves deep into the city’s past and evokes the idea of forgotten treasures. Quick history lesson – In 1995 Bombay officially became Mumbai during the government’s wave of re-Indianising India. The name Mumbai is made up of two parts, Mumba – the goddess that protects the region according to the local beliefs and ‘Ai’ – which in Marathi means Mother. The ‘Black’ in the title is of course a nod to its noir styling as well as signifying that the novel is exploring the darker side of everyday life.
The five member team pulled together to create an extraordinary addition to Comic book culture, not only in India but the world over. The project took almost a year to finish and now on the threshold of their release, they could use some public support. You can visit their Kickstarter page to learn more about the project and make your own contribution, rewards and goodies go to pledges of certain amounts. If they reach their stretch goal, the plan is to launch the book in Mumbai later this year, so go show some love for this revolutionary novel.