The much awaited Virgin Comics, a collaboration between, among others, Richard Branson and Gotham Chopra, is finally here. The first issue, Sadhu, proved to be an entertaining read. The amalgamation of western art and eastern mythology has produced a storyline layered in the enigmatic eastern philosophy of karma and the cult of Shakti (the female manifestation of God).
The graphic novel does not immediately jump into action but begins with a little lesson in Hinduism – stuff about personal evolution, one's contributions due to family and society and finally working towards enlightenment, and then goes on to talk about the Goddess Shakti being the female manifestation of God. It could have you wondering whether it is a comic that you are reading or a Hindu catechism.
But this backdrop is important for those who have little or no knowledge about Hinduism and its far-flung philosphical tentacles. The Karma theory binds the protagonists of the story together though they lead different lives.
The catalyst for the dacoit and the young soldier to intertwine their lives is an old wise sadhu; a believer in fighting a righteous fight based on the philosophy of Karmic retribution since he instructed the dacoits to fight with lathis and not with the white man's guns. The sadhu's holiness or enlightened spirit is futher impressed upon us when he receives a manifestation of the goddess Shakti.
The intersection of Mohanbhai and James, though it does not occur in this issue, is inevitable. There is a sense that this will be imminent, but whether they will end up as foes or friends remains to be seen, as the young soldier, James, feels a strong connection with the goddess Kali.
The journey through the colonial jungles as the East India Company is trying to establish its hegemony over its few territories, the grim realities of the life of a British soldier during that period, the British discovery of pagan mysticism, the zeal of the freedom fighters and the influence of the goddesses via an old Sadhu, besides the birth of a new comic multi-verse, makes this a must-have graphic novel.