Published: 01st September 2018
Why you need to read graphic novel MAI to really understand Malvika Iyer's story
Sriram Jagannathan studied fashion design at NIFT and worked as a graphic designer, animator and user experience designer in the e-learning field for 16 years
A 13-year-old girl lost her hand in a freak grenade blast at her Bikaner home on May 26, 2002. Sixteen years have passed and she is a social worker, motivational speaker, disability rights activist and also holds a doctorate in social work. Meet the invincible Malvika Iyer, whose indomitable spirit to live her life on her own terms inspired Chennaiite designer Sriram Jagannathan to pen his first book, MAI: A graphic novel.
"Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi was the first graphic novel I read. I really loved it — the narration, the illustrated panels. It all worked together so well to tell the story. Over the years, as I read other graphic novels like Maus and Fun Home, I fell in love with the medium and really wanted to create one myself. I was on the lookout for interesting stories. That's when I heard Malvika's inspirational story," says Sriram, who got in touch with Malvika through a friend. He hopes this novel will inspire one and all to fight their way out of the setbacks they face in life and emerge a winner.
Graphic designer turned author: Sriram thinks that the visual portrayal of stories and emotion is the best way to express
Sriram studied fashion designing from NIFT and also worked as a graphic designer, animator, and user experience designer in the field of e-learning for 16 years. For the past few years, he has been picking up some freelance work as well. "Recently I designed the on-field attire and merchandise items for the Canadian National Cricket Team," adds Sriram.
Since he has a background in designing, a graphic novel was a natural choice for him. He thinks that the visual portrayal of stories and emotion is the best way to put across hard-hitting stories.
Sketching a fighter's tale: The black and white graphics in the book are powerful and heartbreaking at the same time
He looked Malvika up on Google once he got to know about her. "I read newspaper reports and blogs about her and watched all the videos of her motivational talks on YouTube," says Sriram. "When I pitched my ideas for a graphic novel to her, she responded very positively. I interviewed her several times over a period of three-four weeks to understand her life — from her childhood days to the present and to try to understand what she went through. I also met her mother, her pillar of strength, and spoke at lengths. I then put all the information I had got, sketched out the storyboard for the book and sent it to Malvika for fact-checking." Once the script was finalised, he created the actual illustrations. The book went through several rounds of editing before he approached Notion Press to publish the book. "The whole process took me about a year," explains Sriram.
A tragic tale: Neither the trauma nor missing out on two years of school could stop Malvika Iyer from topping her Class X board exams
In his novel, Sriram says, he wanted to specifically focus on the challenges Malvika and her family faced at the time of the mishap and in the following years. The book's title is inspired by Malvika's nickname — Mai. The black and white graphics are powerful and heartbreaking at the same time. They start building up the carefree life of a teenager before it overwhelms the reader with the tragedy, the excruciating pain, and suffering that Malvika went through during her hospitalisation and then finally her tough journey towards recovery.
You can buy the novel here.