Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Tears of the Begums - Book Review

Tears of the Begums - Stories of Survivors of the Uprising of 1857 


On the 11th of May, when the mob from Meerut entered daily, nobody would have thought it to be the end of the Mughal Empire. The fire of passion spread across North India, and with it, the stature of the Mughal Crown burned to ashes. Many writers have written about the events of Ghadar, but few writers have presented first-hand accounts of the whole event. Khwaja Hasan Nizami has written 12 books on the Ghadar of 1857. In these books, he has given a detailed account of how the events unfolded during and after the Ghadar. In his book, Begumaat ke Ansoo, translated as Tears of the Begums by Rana Safvi, he interviews various Mughal Princes and Princess who narrate the tales of their suffering.

Even though the title suggests that the book might focus solely on the royal womenfolk, there are a handful of first-hand narratives of many princes as well. Nonetheless, no matter who narrates their sufferings, the reader cannot help but feel sorry for them. One theme that is heavily present is that of 'helplessness'. In a matter of hours, everything was taken away from them. The ones who ruled the entire nation at one point were now beaten, abused, left to beg. The subjects of the Mughal court, in a matter of hours, changed their loyalties and turned their backs onto the royal blood. The book is a magnificent, heart-wrenching and moving collection which depicts the repercussions of the Ghadar and the cruel  vengeance that was meted out towards the people who had nothing to do with it. 

Rana Safvi's translation, Tears of the Begums (published by Hachette India), beautifully captures the essence of their plights and mishaps. She has retained a few original words that helps the reader to connect better. Her book is an attempt for the non-Urdu readers to reconnect with the past and understand how history has largely forgotten the members of the Mughal family.

-Sudipta Agarwal

Phd Scholar, Department of English
New Delhi

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Thursday, 23 June 2022

Hope On - Book Review by Nandita Basu

 Hope on is a pleasant collection of short stories in full colour, where writers and illustrators from different backgrounds have collaborated.  Short story collection, narrated in the comic form is not very common in the Indian space of comic writing. Hope on plugs itself in that space, and it is a rather pleasant exploration of very personal experiences and stories.

Because of the varied backgrounds of the illustrators and writers, each story has a distinct narrative and art style.


Short stories can be hard to deliver and especially in the graphic narrative form. The stories in Hope on manage to put across both the emotion and graphic content smoothly. The stories are an easy read, each story has a different art style. However the difference in consistency  with the art styles might bother some readers.

 But that also helps the book draw up it’s own flavour.  Almost like a bouquet of flowers. So it can come across as a bit of a mash up with the art styles but as you read on you will start enjoying it.

This book is a quick refreshing read. Often with lighter reads there is always the danger of losing out on the emotive content. Hope hits the bulls eye there. Even if the stories are short and breezy, make no mistake it is loaded with a lot of emotions that make you feel, think some cases smile. And the best part is like the name of the book suggests the stories all of a ray of hope shining through.

 Each story feels like you are sitting over a nice cup of coffee and having a conversation with both the writer and the illustrator. It does provide that sense of intimacy with the reader.

 Any good book is always about how it connects with a reader. And finally it all boils down to that.

- Nandita Basu, graphic artist and author of The Piano

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Wednesday, 8 December 2021

                                      Q&A with graphic novelist Nandita Basu

Rain Must Fall  is author Nandita Basu's second graphic novel ( The Piano being the first). It is a tender coming of age story of a teenager and her friendship with a ghost and how they both help each other to resolve personal contentious issues. A wonderful story, which will appeal to all teenagers as well as adults.

Here's a brief Q&A with Nandita, conducted over mail.

Q1. So let’s start from the beginning. When did you realise you wanted to be a graphic novelist? Are you a professional visual artist or self-trained?

Well I was in my twenties when I was introduced to Franco-Dutch graphic novels by a friend and that world drew me in completely. I was into writing but this introduction changed my expression. As far as being an artist goes, I am not trained. I used to draw comic panels and illustrations to entertain a very dear friend of mine who was terminally ill. Writing stories and drawing was a way to brighten up her day.

Q2. What in your opinion is more important in a graphic novel – the visuals or the story?

It’s actually a very delicate balance. Words and visuals are constantly in conversation with each other, and if any one of them become dominant, it could just end up sounding like an argument. I suppose it is much like brewing a good cup of tea.

Q3. Since you also play the piano, was your first graphic novel (The Piano) partly autobiographical?

No, it’s not autobiographical. But having said that, I think every writer ends up expressing some part of their life sub-consciously in a book. Of course the piano, Marcus Aurelius is a real piano that I own and I do relate to it as more than an inanimate object . But I have never had to lose it thankfully. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Q4. Now about your latest (2nd) work- Rain Must Fall. How did this come about?

Honestly, I don’t plan books. They just happen. So in this case. Rain just fell. It took me about four months to finish it. This was right in the middle of the pandemic. But I must add, it was not because I had a lot of time on my hands then:) It was quite the contrary. So I have no idea how Rain Must Fall ended up happening. It just did.

Q5. How did the idea of using a ghost (albeit a friendly one) as an important character come to you?

We are all ghosts inside, aren’t we!! The spirit is the finer part in us, ( that’s my belief) and it is beyond boundaries of society . So I felt the friend Rumi had to encounter quite literally had to be out of this world. Besides, When I was about 14, I had a great desire to meet the ghost of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and hang out with him. Of course that never happened. That was also an inspiration for Rain.

Q6. Rumi is rather an unusual name for the teenage protagonist. Any specific idea behind it?

Yes, I love Rumi’s poetry. This poet found eternal truth and in that way his name stands for freedom for me. For me that name represents going beyond the physical form.  I wanted the main character of my book to carry a name that speaks of the same freedom. It also fit the character because  I didn’t want a conventional gender oriented name for the protagonist.

Q7. Do you think confusion regarding gender (as in the case of Rumi) is a common phenomenon nowadays amongst teenagers? If yes, why?

Well, I don’t believe it’s confusion. It’s more about someone confronting their own truth. And it’s a process, the time involved can be different for everyone. The way one approaches it can also be different. These days teenagers are more aware and have a lot more avenues and information which they can access when they identify differently. So that just gives them more space to express and even start understanding their own feelings. That’s the only reason one gets to see/hear about it more.

Q8. I think in India there’s still low acceptance of boys opting for activities traditionally associated with girls ( like the character of Dada in the novel). What do you think?

Absolutely, but if I may add, the Arts as a discipline is not a preferred professional choice for most families, (I don’t think this is restricted to India alone). Add that to a boy and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Q9. Rain Must Fall is a much longer work than The Piano. Was this intentional? And how long did it take to complete it?

Yes, The Piano was meant for a different age group. Another thing I wanted to convey in that book was a sense of time passing without the reader being caught in it. So the briefness was important. Rain Must Fall, is meant for a slightly older audience , also the story has a lot more emotions, the characters needed a little more depth as opposed to the one’s in The Piano. Like I have mentioned earlier I finished it in four months.

Q10. Do you write down the story first and then work on the graphics or both the things go on simultaneously?

It’s integrated. I actually see most of the pages and hear the dialogues in my mind before I write and draw. And once I start drawing/writing it’s all at the same time.

Q11. Both your works have been in monochrome. Why so? Also, would you like to continue in the same vein or add colour in future?

Well, one reason is I feel I have more control when I use black and white. Also, it is more cost effective for the publisher. I do not see my self using a full colour palatte even in the future. It would at best be 3 colours.

Q12. Any major influences? Which is your favourite graphic novel?

Well inspiration maybe. Influence would mean I would have to be insanely talented to integrate certain art styles in my work. I don’t believe I fall in that category. I love the work of Comes (Belgian/Dutch graphic comic artist), I adore the illustrations of Sukumar Ray. I don’t have one particular favourite book, but the one’s that come to mind right now – Stilte (Dutch), Persopolis, Maus.

Q13. How do you think you have evolved from your first graphic novel to this one?

Well, I always seem to have a problem knitting the middle part of a story, I think I am getting a little better with that. But maybe the reader will know better.

Q14. What is your next project?

Like I said before, books happen to me. So when the next story decides to appear I will start engaging with it. Right now there are just glimpses of it, so there is not much to say there.

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Sunday, 21 November 2021

Getting to know Shakti Comics, new publisher of Phantom comics in India

Q & A with Shakti Comics

Q1. Congratulations on your first issues of Phantom, Mandrake and Flash Gordon. 

Tell us about the response you are getting?

A. The response is tremendous. It is beyond our expectations whether it is Hindi, English or

Bangla. We are getting lots of emails, messages and phone calls from readers mentioning

that they are happy with our work and our sellers are also very happy as the stock they

acquired initially is sold out very soon and almost all of them reordered.

Q2. Tell us briefly about Shakti comics. Since when are you in business? Who are the team


A. Of course, Shakti Comics has actually been here in the comic field since 2004, then, it

was a retail shop in Meerut (near New Delhi) where people used to get comics on rent. 

In 2020, we launched it online and started publishing in 2021. The Team Members are:


1. Mr. Shankar, a very senior Phantom Phan since the times of Indrajal comics

2. Shakti Studios: takes care of translation and cover art management.

3. Artist: we have Anupam Sinha Sir onboard, well renowned Indian artist who has

created many Indian Super Heroes.

4. Ankit Mitra: An International Level Art enthusiast: Phantom Cover Artist.

5. Subhomoy Kundu: Nostalgic Art Enthusiast: Bengali version Production Head.


Q3. How / Why did you decide to get into publishing from retailing?

A. It was a great experience to make sure comics were reaching readers through our efforts

in the new normal. Still there was a huge void to be filled as there are only a few publishers

that too are producing very few new stories. Then we decided that our role should be

changed from retailer to publisher to do something for the Indian comic industry, especially

for regional comic fans who have a limited number of titles to read.


Q4. How/Why did you shortlist Phantom, Mandrake and Flash Gordon for your first


A. Yes! Here comes the question… When we decided to switch our role. 

We were thinking of many  stories and characters… then Mr Shankar suggested 

why not Betaal (Hindi for the Phantom)? 

 The obvious answer was “Regal has that…” 

Mr Shankar then  asked why they are not printing in Hindi?

So, we contacted King feature syndicate and acquired the rights for Hindi and Bangla

(exclusive) and English (shared with Regal). 

During the discussions with King Feature Syndicate we locked Mandrake 

and Flash Gordon also. Today, we are very happy with the response

from the public for all three characters.


Q5. Are you a Phantom and Mandrake fan yourself?

A. Yeah… I read all Indrajal comics on rent during my childhood, some of them I purchased

and collected also.


Q6. What are some of the challenges that you faced while coming out with the first issues?

A. Most of the team members were new and not much aware about the Phantom except Mr.

Shankar that too upto 1990.

After that we were totally untouched by the changes that came to the Phantom universe. 

Then in India  we do not have Phantom artists for cover arts also. 

But still we managed and results were in front of us.


Q7. We already have a publisher for Phantom and Mandrake comics in India i.e, Regal. 

How are you different from them?

A. We are focused on making a premium product. Regal has the phantom and Mandrake but

not Flash Gordon nor the rights of Hindi and Bangla. And for Phantom also the stories are

different. Apart from that we are focused on making every issue a more collectible one in

every aspect… cover art… back cover design, story title… binding and paper quality of

international standards.


Q8. How do you explain the recent growth of interest in Phantom and Mandrake comics in


A. It was always there… English readers were always enthusiastic about them. Now the

Hindi and Bangla readers are also getting these through us so we are happy that we are

bringing them in regional languages as well.


Q9. The first 3 issues have come out in 3 Indian languages-Hindi, Bangla and English. Do

you plan to publish in other regional languages as well?

A. Yes, if we will get enough demand then we will definitely be happy to publish in other

languages also.


Q10. How difficult was it to find a good translator for the Hindi and Bangla version?

A. Hindi translation was not so tough as we all are quite good in Hindi and English. 

But, yes Bangla translation was a little difficult. Initially, we gave the responsibility 

to a translator but he could not cross the bar, then it was given to Subhamoy 

and team and they did it very well.


Q11. You have chosen a very different, smaller size for the comics (~ B5) as compared to

Regal or Frew. Any particular reason the same? Will you continue to publish in the same


A. There are three reasons:

1.The size is very good for KFS strip placement.

2. Also Indrajal used to come in the similar size

3. In this size there is no wastage of paper… and Phantom loves the Jungle.


Q12. How do you choose the cover artist for the comics?

A. Initially we wanted to put some amalgamation of Indian touch to Phantom that's why we

chose Anupam Sinha and Subhomoy to revive the nostalgia. But now we are taking it more

seriously and the theme is more important. Some artists do bright stories well, some do dark

ones better like Ankit Mitra. So, we are going according to that.


Q13. What will be the frequency of publishing these comics?

A.    We would like to catch up on a monthly publication scheme


Q14. What are your plans for the future? Are you going to add more characters to your

publishing list?

A. Yes of course we will add more characters. Some are already in contract. some are in

process. Also, indigenous stories are in the pipeline.

You can order your copy of the comics here -

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Sunday, 3 January 2021

Interview with new Phantom artist - Sanjay Valecha

Hello Phans,

Hope you have enjoyed reading the 2 Christmas special Phantom comics from Regal publications (Kerela,India) which came out in December 2020. The artwork in the stories (written by TonyDepaul)  is by one of my favorite Phantom artist -Paul Ryan.
The cover artist for one of these 2  comics was the seasoned Indian Phantom artist - Vincent Moses Raja.(We interviewed him earlier and you can find that interview on this blog).

The other cover was drawn by a new artist - Sanjay Valecha. It features a 'pumped up' Phantom taking on the bad guys along with his trusted partner Devil

We managed to talk to Sanjay and given below is a brief Q&A with him

Q1. Tell us briefly about your background.Are you a professional artist? Where exactly do you stay? 

My name is Sanjay Valecha. My home town is Neemuch (Madhya pradesh - A state in Central India).  Art is my hobby but I have made it  my part-time profession since last 2 years. In this time I have worked on  at least 10-12 comics for different publishers and many other book cover and concept arts. I couldn't complete my study, due to personal reasons, but I am studying now from distance education. I am working at Municipal council Neemuch as a computer operator.
Earlier I was working at a printing press as a graphic designer in part time. I gives at least 4 hours daily to my illustration work.

Q2.  Who were your inspirations? Did you get inspired by any particular artist? 

From my childhood I loved  reading comics. They are two Indian comics artists who always inspire me, first is Mr.Dheeraj Verma and the second is Mr. Edison George a.k.a Manu. I like both of them for there artworks and art techniques.

Q3.  Are you a Phantom fan yourself? When were you introduced to Phantom?

Of-course I am a Phantom fan. I have read many comics of Phantoms and I have a collection too

Q4.  Have you drawn Phantom for any other publication earlier?

No. It’s first time I have drawn Phantom for any publisher.

Q5. How do the current Phantom artists compare with the classic ones like McCoy/Sy Barry?

The classics had their own style  which is very different from the current artists.They can't be compared

Q6. What do you think is the reason for Phantom's enduring popularity in India?

I think the  simplicity of the stories of Phantom's comics is the main reason for the enduring popularity in India.

Q7. How did you  get to draw the cover for the Phantom comics by Regal?
 Being a passionate illustrator, I saw an ad of Regal comics and I contact them to do the cover .

Q8. Did you receive any guidelines from King Features to draw the cover?

Q9. Were you able to read the stories before you drew the cover ?

Q.10. Do you draw digitally now or the traditional way using paper and pencil?
 I draw in the traditional way using paper and pencil

Q11. What has been the feedback so far on your cover art for the Phantom comic?
 I   have not received any so far (  Phans go ahead and tell him what you felt about the cover art. Feedback is always good for the artists)

Q.12 Would you like to do a complete Phantom story someday?

Yes, of course. If I  get the chance, I would love to do it

Q.13 Do you accept commissions and how can people contact you for the same?
You contact me  at +919009291167 or mail me at

If you are having trouble getting hold of Phantom comics by Regal contact them directly at 94810 52592

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Saturday, 31 October 2020

Interview with new Phantom cover artist - Luca Erbetta

 Q & A with the cover artist of Phantom comics published by Regal publishers in India

The new editions (No.3 & 4) of Phantom comics are now out and no Phan  can afford to miss them.
Exciting stories, improved printing and great cover art by new artists.
We decided to reach out to the artist Luca Erbetta who had done the cover for No.4 edition and he was kind enough to patiently answer our questions  

Q1. Tell us briefly about your background. Are you a professional artist? Where exactly do you stay? Where did you study? etc

I'm a professional Italian comic book artist and illustrator, and I'm currently living in France.
I've done this job for the last 19 years, mostly for French publishers, but also for US, Swedish and Australian publisher. 

Q2. Who were your inspirations? Did you get inspired by any particular artist?

I have many inspirations, from US, Italians, Argentinian and French comics. Joe Kubert, Alan Davis, Ralph Meyer, Hermann, Domingo Mandrafina...The list is too long to do it! I also love looking at some classic painters and illustrators, like Zorn, Sorolla, Mort Kunstler, Dean Cornwell...

Q3. Are you a Phantom fan yourself? When were you introduced to Phantom?

Yes! I don't remember exactly when I've started to read the Phantom. I was probably around twenty-five, but immediately loved the character, and the Idea of a Phantom dynasty.

Q.4 Tell us a bit about Phantom comics publishing in Italy. is Phantom still popular there?

Phantom has been quite popular in Italy in the sixties. He was known as "L'uomo mascherato" (the masked man). It has been published until the nineties, then it has almost disappeared, and now it's just a thing for nostalgic fans.

Q5.  How did you get to draw Phantom covers for Fantomen?

Thanks to a friend, I've discovered that the Phantom was still be published in Sweden, were they produced new stories and also plenty of new covers.
I've sent a portfolio to the editor. He liked it and he proposed me to do some covers.

Q6. Who is your favourite Phantom artist ? Why ?

From the past, Sy Berry, of course. From the actual artists, Henrik Sahlstrom. His covers are amazing. Very powerful and effective!!!

Q7. How do the current Phantom artists compare with the classic ones like McCoy/Sy Barry?

Personally, It's hard. But I understood that I can't do what they did, and that I have to find a way to b get "my" Phantom.

Q8. How did you decide to get to draw the cover for the Phantom comics by Regal?

My dream is to do at least one Phantom cover for each country where is published. So, I've contacted Regal and asked them if they were interested.

Q9. Did you receive any guidelines from King Features to draw the cover?

No. I never have any guidelines from KF. Just from the local editors. In this case, from Regal. They just asked me to do a "Phantom in the jungle". So ,that's what I did!  😊

Q10. Were you able to read the stories before you drew the cover ?

No. That almost never happens.

Q.11 Do you draw digitally now or the traditional way using paper and pencil?

I use both. The Phantom cover I did for Regal was done in ink on paper, then colored in Photoshop.

Q12. Have you also drawn Mandrake the magician ? (other popular character created by Lee Falk)?

No, never. But I love magicians, and it would be fun, someday!

Q13. What has been the feedback so far on your cover art for the Phantom comic?

Astonishingly good! It can happen that sometimes, someone doesn't like a particular cover, but generally I have very, very good feedback!

Q.14 Would you like to do a complete Phantom story someday?

Yes. But I would do it only if all the conditions are good (time, money, and a very good story) So, for the moment, I can't. But we will never know.

Q.15 Do you accept commissions and how can people contact you for the same?

Yes. But, I'm just very busy, so, even if I have very few requests, if someone asks me, it must be veeery, patient. 😊

If you want to follow me online, you can go to my Instagram page:
and subscribe for my newsletter at:

Contact Regal publishers for the comics @ 94810 52592 (India)

Also available with Frew in Australia

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Interview with Phantom cover artist - Vincent M Raja

                       Q&A with the cover artist of new Phantom comics - Vincent M Raja

Q1. Tell us briefly about your background. Are you a professional artist?

Ans. Yes, I am a professional artist.
I am a native of Tamil Nadu (a state in India) and settled down in Chennai.
Started my career in 1982 and have worked with many publishing houses

I am also a comics creator for children and adults. Creating puzzles and DIY paper models are my other jobs.

Q2. Are you a Phantom fan yourself? When were you introduced to Phantom?

Ans. Yes, I am a big fan of the Phantom.
I was introduced to the Phantom when I was 3 or 4 years old! My father used to buy Indrajal comics and the colourful frames must have attracted me to the books, and I got hooked to them. I didn't know the names of the Phantom or the book, but it was only 'mukamoodi pusthakam' (the masked man's book) for me! As I was interested in drawing, my chalk drawings changed from a man or car or bus to the 'mukamoodi, and our house floors were filled with masked man stick figures!
I learned my art from Indrajal comics. The Phantom became my reference for anatomy study!

Q3.  Have you drawn Phantom earlier as well?
Ans. Not professionally, except for an article in the Hindu's 'Young World' supplement once. And also for a contribution to the Phantom Phundraiser book for the Australian
 Bushfire relief.

Q4. Who is your favourite Phantom artist? Why?
Ans. My favourite is Jim Aparo.
I like his frame cuts, action sequences and the different angles he (and we) views the actions from! Every frame brims with life. 'The Phantom of Shangri-La' and 'The Pharaoh Phantom' are good examples.
Q5. How do the current Phantom artists compare with the classic ones like McCoy/Sy Barry?

Ans. This comparison can be done only by peers. I am just a novice in Phantom art and nobody to compare the professional Phantom illustrators to the great legends.

Q6. What do you think is the reason for Phantom's popularity in India?

Ans. Because, I think, the Phantom IS the original and natural superhero and also came to India earlier than the others.
The reason for my liking him is, he is a normal person like you and me, with only more power in his muscles! He is quick to think and act which is not abnormal, but a slight exaggeration!
He can't fly; he can't do magic; he cannot vanish into thin air; he is just a fellow human being, who is a little more powerful than us.
If I can fly, or disappear into thin air, or swing on a thin wire from building to building, I too can become a superhero! What is so great about it?!

The simplicity and down-to-earth nature of the Phantom character must be the cause for his popularity here, in India.

Q7. How did you decide to get to draw the cover for the Phantom comics by Regal?
Ans. Well, the Phantom cover was not the subject I discussed with them first! It was something else, but comics related, of course.
Then while chatting I sent them the Phantom illustration, I did for the Australian bushfire relief book. Seeing that they wanted to try me for one of their covers, and I did the first one. They were happy and asked for the second cover also.

Q8.Did you receive any guidelines from King Features to draw the cover?
Ans. No. No guidelines from King Features.

Q9. Were you able to read the stories before you drew the cover?
Ans. Again, no.

Q11.What has been the feedback so far on your cover art for the Phantom comic?
Ans. Till now I have seen only positive comments for my work, except one which said the costume colours were not right! But the pictures in the ads are not the right colours.
Also, the Phantom's costume comes in different colours in different countries! I have seen purple, red and blue. But now a sculpture has come out in green costume!

Q.12 Would you like to do a complete Phantom story someday?
Ans. That's my dream! Hope it will come true soon!

Note: The comics have been published by Regal Press based out of Kerala

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