(Copy of Latha Srinivasan's interview with Nandhini JS, for Daily News and Analysis)
Filmmaker JS Nandhini has authored what is possibly the first digital Tamil graphic novel titled Sivappu Kal Mookuthi or Girl with a Red Nose Ring. Nandhini calls herself a creator and a storyteller. She made her directorial debut with Thiru Thiru Thuru Thuru in 2009 but believes there is more to her than just films.
What prompted Nandhini to move from films to the format of a digital graphic novel?
“I feel creators should not be bound by mediums. I love cinema. I love filmmaking. But I also love music, arts, writing, animation and many other things. So I would like to express my creations and stories through various mediums. Writing a good script or screenplay is a monumental task. I felt that people didn't 'see' the grandeur of the visuals I had inside my head. Comics gave me this wonderful opportunity to show people my writing skills along with the visuals I had imagined for the story. So I decided to make a comic book,” explains Nandhini.
Digital graphic novels are not very prevalent in India. Sivappu Kal Mookuthi is a first for Nandhini as well. The director says when joined the Tamil film industry to become a director, people deterred her saying it would be tough for a women to survive in the field. She got the same advice when she started work on her graphic novel. “Such facts only motivate me and push me towards doing it. When I decided to make a comic, I realised that the comic book industry was booming internationally and India was slowing warming up to it. But in Tamil Nadu, nothing! I realised that the comics available in Tamil were actually translated versions of comics from other languages. We had no one making any new, original content. I wanted to make an original, contemporary Tamil comic book for the current generation and also make it available for people who couldn't read Tamil,” explains Nandhini.
The idea of Sivappu Kal Mookuthi, in fact, didn’t originate as a novel. Nandhini wrote it as the screenplay for a feature film. She decided to convert it into a digital graphic novel, That’s when she faced difficulties. “Hiring the artists was hell! There were many artists who were talented and skilled but most of them lacked passion. Many were not really excited or enthusiastic about making a Tamil comic. Then I found Magesh and Sainath, two young 2D illustrators, who had never done art for a comic series before. It took 3-4 months of practice to get the artwork right. After a lot of struggle, a year and a half years later, Sivappu Kal Mookuthi was ready,” she says proudly.
Ask Nandhini what the three fundamental elements for a good Tamil graphic novel were and pat comes the reply, “Firstly, make fresh stories for today's audience. We can't just run with content that was made 20 years ago. Secondly, experiment with various genres including romance, horror, suspense, sci-fi, thriller, drama. Lastly, make it available in digital mediums because that is the future.”
Sivappu Kal Mookuthi is available in Tamil and English, as a flipbook for Windows PC and Mac, and in a PDF version for multiple platforms. The comic is priced at Rs. 249. Nandhini is quite happy with the feedback for her first comic venture.
“I will try to make SKM into a film, in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam or Hindi. If that happens, SKM will be the first comic book to be made into a feature film in India. If not, fine. I'm glad to have brought it to life at least as a comic book!” she says.