Asvin Srivatsangam: In a league of his own

Asvin Srivatsangam (seen here in white T-shirt on the shoot)’s The Village is the first Indian graphic novel to hit the screen as a web series. Photo: Asvin Srivatsangam

Born in the US, raised in Chennai and now a California resident and UX designer in the tech industry for over 15 years: Asvin Srivatsangam is in a league of his own. His maiden film as a co-writer, The Village, premiered on November 24 as a six-episode horror thriller on Amazon Prime Video. And there is much more to him than all this, as I come to realize on a long-distance phone interview with him.

Excerpts from an interview follow.

Tell us something more about your background.

I bring a unique background! My early life took an unexpected turn when my NASA scientist father passed away during a sabbatical in India, leaving me under my mother’s care. Despite this early loss, my childhood was painted with a deep love for comic books.

Born into a Tamil-speaking family with roots in Paramakudi, Tamil Nadu, my familial connections extend to names like Kamal Haasan, Charu Haasan and Suhasini Mani Rathnam. I am married to a Punjabi from Delhi, who is a schoolteacher, and we share our lives with a 14-year-old daughter.

Even as I was working as a UX Designer, in 2013, I founded Yali Dream Creations, to create graphic novels. This witnessed significant growth with Vivek Rangachari joining as co-founder in 2019. He is the producer of films like The Lunchbox and D-Day. The Village, a 130-page social horror graphic novel released in August 2017, authored by Shamik Dasgupta, illustrated by Gaurav Shrivastava and colored by Prasad Patnaik, became a standout work in our portfolio.

Actor Arya in The Village, the web series based on a graphic novel of the same name. Photo: Amazon Prime Video

And now it is the first Indian graphic novel to be turned into a screen experience as a web series. How did that happen?

Yes! In December 2017, I watched an interview featuring filmmaker Milind Rau, known for films like Aval, Gruham and the Hindi film, The House Next Door. This led to an initial contact with him through social media. He was also an AD (assistant director) with Mani Rathnam. I sent him a copy of The Village as I felt it could be adapted into a movie. He read it and was interested in making a film on it. For 7 to 10 days, we were talking on WhatsApp. I then met him in April 2018 in India.

One question, or rather two: Why a web series instead of a film, and why in Tamil rather than Hindi, which would have attracted a larger audience? Rau’s The House Next Door was a Hindi movie.

A pan-Indian star was to produce and feature in The Village, but things did not work as he had other commitments. Milind then approached Amazon Prime, and they showed interest, but there was tons of paperwork that I had to go through. And they suggested both a web series and making it in Tamil. They felt that a web series has a longer shelf-life. The series, after all, is set in Tamil Nadu and the 2004 tsunami has a prominent role in the storyline. In these times, with subtitles, language does not matter if the content is good.

I express gratitude to both Milind Rau and Amazon for contributing to this groundbreaking moment. Despite pandemic challenges, our production had commenced in February 2022. The series has released now on November 24 marking the historic first adaptation of a graphic novel in India.

At this juncture, I have a small question. What exactly is the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel, for those who do not know of it?

The graphic novel is a sophisticated way of terming a comic book. But it is also a complete story that may have 100 pages or more, just like a novel.

Wasn’t Sanjay Gupta, the Indian filmmaker, supposed to make another of your graphic novels into a film?

Yes, that was Rakshak, a novel set in Delhi. But that has yet to take off.

Is there anything else in the offing?

At Yali Dream Works, we are housing diverse content like The Caravan, Codename Alpha, Neelakshi: The Quest for Amrit and Gandiva. We are committed to deliver imaginative storytelling. The Caravan has been optioned by a leading Hindi actor’s company, with plans for production in late 2024. Simultaneously, we are actively developing Variyaan, a Tamil superhero narrative rooted in the Chola Dynasty. This reflects our vision of making adaptations to the visual medium more accessible and creating a dynamic space for diverse narratives.

I watched your trailer. The premise seems familiar like some other horror movies.

Every horror or calamity movie is bound to have some common tropes. But the content is the final answer. In The Village, I am dealing more with science than superstition.

With things zooming for Yali, when are you going to do novels and movies full-time?

I am doing this as a passion, and have not yet made a full transition! Hopefully, I may do it one day…

Is your daughter interested in all this?

I have no idea! She is curious, though.











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