Saurav Mohapatra and Vivek Shinde created Mumbai Confidential as an attempt to present (yet another) take on Mumbai’s slimy underbelly. The gritty tale revolves around an ex-encounter cop from Mumbai Police who is going through a major breakdown and a whole lot of other characters who are directly or indirectly connected to a master plan.
When I first opened the shipping cover to get a first look at the book, I was quite impressed with the look of the art and the production values. A premium looking graphic novel, which will make any Indian comic creator or publisher, or even a reader, proud.
What works the most for Mumbai Confidential is the writing style which is structured more like a movie screenplay. Arjun Kadam, an ex-cop, has his life messed up after an incident which ends in tragedy. Things get into a downward spiral when he becomes a victim in a hit-and-run case, in which a street urchin loses her life. After he comes out of coma, Kadam gets his hands dirty in trying to unearth secrets, conspiracies and master plans while trying to bring the urchin’s killer to justice, which builds up to deliver a final twist right in the end.
The narrative is non-linear, it cuts to and fro timelines. This does get confusing at times, but Mohapatra does well to bring things back on track soon. The look and feel is definitely noir-ish. It does justice to the mood of the book and Vivek Shinde does a fantastic job in presenting to us the dark, brooding tones. In fact, the art is the best part of this graphic novel. The writing is good too, but at times it doesn’t quite sound like a gritty Mumbai take. The language could have done with a few more Mumbai references and slang. Not that there isn’t, but it definitely could have done with more. The monologue narrative could have been crisper, more mature than what it is. And there are a lot of clichés which is expected in noir comics. Oh and that twist in the end? I kind of figured it out way before half way into the book. So it was kind of an anticlimax.
Since we have had our dose of Mumbai crime scenes, encounters, gangsters, etc in a spate of Hindi films, the storyline may not really come across as anything out of the ordinary. For the build-up it creates, it could have ended a lot better. But watch out for the Interludes, at the end of the book. These couple of short stories are done extremely well, and I feel probably the entire graphic novel could have been a bunch of short stories revolving round Mumbai cops. But oh well, enough complaining. Having said all that I have, it’s a wonderful addition to your collection, and a matter of pride that such products (gritty and not candyfloss tripe that passes off as graphic novels in India, and not even the uber-superpowered, DC-esque newage mythological comics) get a commercial release in our supersensitive country. It is a brave, confident effort and should be read for sure.