50 Shades Of Creativity
As Indian-made adult colouring books hit the shelves, grown-ups are discovering the elementary and therapeutic joys of putting (colour) pencil to paper
LATE LAST YEAR, Chennaibased market researcher Subadra Kalyanaraman was at a bookstore in Singapore when she chanced upon a surprise: an aisle devoted to colouring books for grown-ups. The idea of a book with intricate designs meant to be coloured in by steadier hands than kids was already popular with her friends in India. They even had favourites, Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford’s books were near the top of their lists. “Colouring was getting popular in India and seeing the variety in Singapore made me realise that we didn’t have many local books in the genre,” recalls Kalyanaraman.
In February, she released Shakuntala And Her Magic Box, a Madhubani-themed colouring book. It features 16 artworks and two pages of story panels, written by her husband and inspired by a Korean colouring book. “It’s the tale of a girl who loves music, and the gramophone is her music box,” says Kalyanaraman. “She sits by the river and sings amidst nature; there are illustrations of trees, birds and fishes.”
From a print run of 150 copies, her book is now fast selling on Amazon. Her Twitter timeline displays stunning contributions of completed artwork from colourists who use the pull-out pages of her book to express their creativity. “People have gone crazy with the colours. Some have done shading, others have used gel pens,” she says.
The pictures reflect a trend that has captured the imaginations, and hands, of much of urban India in the last year. They play on the simple, well-remem- bered joy of filling an illustration with colour. In India, the books are typically filled with illustrations of mandalas (a circular symbol representing the universe), mythical creatures, flora and fauna, and other abstract patterns, that hold promises of colour-fuelled fantasies. The Landmark chain of bookstores, which stocks almost 50 homegrown and international titles in the genre, has sold over
1,000 books since February.
The grown-up’s fascination for the books can be traced back to 2013, when Basford published the bestselling
Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book. The concept