Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Review: Kashmir Pending

Kashmir Pending by Naseer Ahmed and artwork by Saurabh Singh

Kashmir Pending is a graphic novel that tells of one man's life as a freedom fighter in the contested region of Kashmir. The story is narrated by Mushtaq, the protagonist, who tells of his exploits from a jail cell. Ali, another inmate, listens as Mushtaq recounts his beginnings as a protester, which led to him becoming a freedom fighter. Mushtaq also discusses some of the history of Kashmir, while telling Ali of his past.

As a reader you never know exactly why Mustaq is in jail, as there is only a little bit of dialog, and little narration too, for that matter. Ahmed appears to be content to let Singh's fantastic artwork tell much of the story. Eventually as this graphic novel progresses, we see the events which lead to Mushtaq's inevitable capture, the very events that cause Mushtaq to commit what to many would be an unthinkable act during a time of war.

The thing that makes Kashmir Pending special is the amazing artwork done by Singh. He uses very subtle colors, a large degree of blank space, and makes fantastic use of shadows to give the narrative its own personality. Despite being so minimal in the artwork, Singh is able to carry the story with the art element. It isn't uncommon to see comic writers who crowd out the artist with too much text, leaving the artwork little room convey the story, but that is definitely not the case in Kashmir Pending as the art takes center stage.

Kashmir Pending does a lot with a little, as it is a short piece, (about 100 pages) and short on dialog and descriptive passages, but it is still able to convey a very concise, meaningful and powerful story. I think there is a lot that could be covered on the topic of Kashmir, and could make for a great graphic novel, but I appreciate what Ahmed did by keeping the story simple, and compelling. It is the simplicity of the story that sets Kashmir Pending apart from the war epic crowd. This ain't Palestine or Safe Area Gorazde but that is what makes it good.

Grade: B+

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