Grafity’s Wall, the new crowdfunded graphic novel from rising star Ram V and artist Anand Radhakrishnan’s (Anand RK), is a book I’ve kept my eye on for a while now and I was pleased to see it recently launched at Thought Bubble where I was able to nab a copy. It’s a book that’s set in Mumbai, but speaks to any of us who have grown up with dreams and aspirations only to be surrounded on all sides by obstacles, prejudices and the adult world of oppression. Don’t rely on these people to fan the flames of desire felt by our four leading characters, and it’s to each character’s credit that they never give up on themselves in the face of such adversity.
Take into account a city like Mumbai – itself an all-consuming, dispassionate character in the book, as Ram V is wont to do in his writing (see Paradiso from Image Comics for more on this reoccurring theme) – and it’s amazing anyone surrounded by such deprived, abject poverty could ever achieve anything. The odds are certainly stacked against them. Anyone with a heart will be rooting for all of them, but for me it was Jay, the would-be street rapper, who I felt the most for. A victim of his own environment, Jay tries to make good on his talents, but is constantly beat down – literally and figuratively – by local gangster, Mario, whom he works for. Hey, you gotta make a living some way, right?
We met the eponymous Grafity in the first chapter, with each chapter focusing one each of the friends in turn. Leading to the most dramatic of episodes in Chapter 4 and Saira’s story, who acts almost like the catalyst within the group with the wall he adopts – after the local authority’s have bulldozed down a shanty town to make way for gentrification (a sad state of affairs in itself that offers the readers something of a taste of what it must be like to live in Mumbai when you’re poor, powerless and invisible). A wall that they all come back to and rally together around. It’s symbol of a disappearing Mumbai, but also a symbol of hope and rebirth, too, as Grafity adds to the wall throughout the book.
These are kids who have more to overcome than your average teenager, kids who have to do that little bit more to overcome their circumstances, but it’s also a coming-of-age story for each one too. Think Stand By Me but set in India and you’ll get the tone of this book immediately. I really couldn’t sum it up any better. There is friendship, fun times and dreadful discoveries, and a bitter-sweet epilogue that brings the story into the here and the now, reminiscent of the aforementioned film’s own narrative in many ways. Anand RK’s almost P Craig Russell-like artwork adds an air of the magic to proceedings, even though this is very much set in the stark, real-world of Mumbai. The magic that comes with youth and a world of potential and offers a glimpse of the talent coming out of India today.
It’s a beautiful looking book and one that paints a very vivid image of the world of inner city India, with it’s colourful characters from all walks of life, and one that will resonate with many readers. Very much a personal account in many ways, I think, Ram V and Anand RK have created a wonderful, passionate, poignant book which has an ageless theme to impress on its readers, and a sharp reminder that one should never give up on their dreams. Even if you have to fight for them!
Grafity’s Wall is available now from Unbound.