Mumbai crime goes graphic
Last September, creator Saurav Mohapatra and illustrator Vivek Shinde launched the digital version of their slick crime noir work, Mumbai Confidential. Fresh from its online success, the crack team is out with the hard copy. Via an email interview from California, Mohapatra tells Fiona Fernandez about the switch in formats, Indian publishers and the possibility of a screen avataar
Could you tell our readers about the response for digital editionof Mumbai Confidential since its release last year?
The digital edition was a decision taken with mutual agreement between the creators and the publisher. We decided to release the main story as a serialised version to build a brand, get the book across to as many people and places before the physical hardcover edition came out and of course, pay homage to classic crime/pulp fiction, which is usually serialised before being collected into a novel length book. The response was awesome. We had fans from India, US and Europe reacting enthusiastically to the book. It was a great feeling to (in a way) see Mumbai Confidential (MC) ‘spread its wings’ and reach people who love this genre.
The hard copy of MC gives one the sense of a rawness and vibe about a local story -- its smells and sounds, and yet, as the famous Ron Marz and readers like us believe, this noir writing has universal appeal. What worked in its favour?
I’m at a heart vs head quandary here. As someone deeply immersed in the technological landscape, I know that the printed medium will slowly fade into the background (existing perhaps as novelty/niche) while digital medium will dominate as the mode of choice for mass consumption. But I have a confession to make -- I am a ‘book-sniffer’. There’s something about holding a book, putting your feet up and reading, as the smell of paper and ink waft into your nostrils. Also, for comics, the form factor drives a lot of decisions about panel layout and art. In a print book, you have the entire page in front of you and you can see the even-odd pages as a spread. So, the thumb rule I use is to end the odd numbered page on the right with a mini-cliffhanger (to make the reader turn the page). For digital, I think differently.
Were there any tweaks made to the digital format (script and artwork) before the hardcover version was printed?
We reordered the chapters. The digital issues had the chapters in an order that was designed to be read, issue-by-issue; in the hard copy, chapters are rearranged so it reads like a novel. There were minor cosmetic tweaks like contrast fixes, font size changes, etc, for print.
Will we see a sequel?
Definitely. Remember though, MC is creator-owned. We don’t get paid a page rate. Vivek (Shinde, the illustrator) and I make money from the sale of each book. We will be bootstrapping work on Volume 2 Elephants’ Graveyard that is set in the infamous red light area of Kamathipura (at its sinful peak) off of the proceeds from the first book. So, if you loved Volume 1 Good Cop, Bad Cop, you will like Volume 2; its plot and script is ready.
Any plans for a film based on the book?
There are some discussions in the pipeline that I can’t disclose now. But it’s heartening to see people take interest in MC as a universe.
Based on your experiences so far, are Indian publishers warming up to this format of storytelling?
It’s a question of market size. I had some disappointing experiences while shopping MC to Indian publishers, but there are no hard feelings. I understand the need for publishers to play it safe. The only downside to that is the market end up with a homogeneous slate of titles (a plethora of “me-too” titles), which perpetuates the status quo.