Being efficient in storytelling on multiple platforms is a gift, and author, illustrator and filmmaker Vikram Balagopal believes only in working on the right mediums for the right story. After a stint in filmmaking, Delhi-based Vikram released the first two parts of his Ramayana-based graphic novel trilogy as one book, the critically-acclaimed Simian in 2014. And now, he’s hoping his writing skills have the same effect his art has, with the release of his first full-fledged novel, Savage Blue.
The book, a fantasy-thriller, tells the story of Shyam and Akila, who meet each other 20 years after the latter suddenly goes missing as a child. The story moves on to reveal that Akila actually travelled to other surreal worlds over two decades that she was missing, and decides to take Shyam along on her journey, after being inexplicably drawn to him. “My aim was to write a contemporary fantasy that we could all relate to as adults who have had these feelings in our lives and in our relationships, and through it take the reader on a wild trip,” Vikram says.
Growing up influenced by the creative arts, Vikram began writing poetry at the age of 9. “In truth, the poetry was meant to be song lyrics, and I think I’ve always been a frustrated musician who can’t sing a tune or play an instrument. I became an avid reader, beginning with adventure and mystery books the following year. When I was 12, I found my love for movies with (Stanley) Kubrick and (Alfred) Hitchcock. I have always been fascinated with storytelling, whatever the medium, and that’s never left me,” explains Vikram.
His graphic novel Simian won an award for Best Graphic Novel at Comic Con India in 2014. “The epics have hundreds of characters with rich backstories that afford writers and artists a huge freedom to let their imaginations take flight and explore them further. As to when the readers will get tired of the genre, it’s too soon to tell since the influx has only begun within the past decade or two,” Vikram says.
While he lists J.D. Salinger, J.R.R. Tolkien and James Clavell as some of his favourite authors, Vikram maintains that filmmaking still remains his preferred medium. Studying at the New York Film Academy and working later on in the Indian film industry, he says, “Filmmaking is also the most difficult medium to work with and to complete, let alone to end up with a final product that resembles what you had in mind when you started. But it’s been in my blood since I was a child and now it’s a part of the way I think and see the world.”
Vikram says that he may now be taking a break from books to go back to filmmaking — but only after his excitement for Savage Blue dies down. He adds that Akila’s “strong female character” inspired the book’s cover — that he himself drew. “That is why I drew the cover with her twisting body pushing back in resistance. It was the image I had in my mind while I wrote it. I would love it if the reader has dreams about the book.”