Monday, February 16, 2015


Draupadi: The Fire-Born Princess.
A Graphic Novel by Saraswati Nagpal.

This version of Draupadi is interesting in that it is feminist in its slant, being told completely from Draupadi's pov, and with much questioning of the male heroes, especially of Yudhistra, the eldest of Draupadi's five husbands.

In fact, none of the characters get off easy.  The Kuru dynasty is conceived of as a den of fools, knaves, tyrants and thieves.  Jealousy, vengefulness, anger, and above all, lust, are the threads that run through the blood-soaked narrative.

Every single character seems to have a cosmic weakness, and Draupadi as much as any of the others.  The novel is powerful in depicting her towering sense of victimhood and her thirst for revenge.  Sadly, only when she is sated with blood does she realize the terrible, generational, cyclical price she, her clan, and indeed the Universe will have to pay, unless she can bring herself to enact the first act of forgiveness and self-effacement.  This is the lesson that Krishna has been trying to impart to her all her life, and one she only learns after the devastating tragedy of the Great War.

This is not the 1960s Amar Chitra Katha series we remember fondly.  The graphics are far more modern, aggressive, sexual and disturbing, borrowing from manga and fantasy, and much higher quality.  The language is still too courtly, stylized and melodramatic for my liking -- but perhaps the next generation of graphic novels in India will graduate to better novelistic treatments.  In the meantime, it is a welcome advance.

Dec 2014.

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