9In a world obsessed with conventional textual literature, you choose to illustrate comic books and graphic novels, how and when did you make that choice? What intrigued you about them?
It was quite recently, that I turned from being a reader to a contributor or a creator. Professionally, I stepped into this sprawling medium when a school time friend (Rajeev Tamhankar) approached me for his comic book start-up. This opportunity provided me a good ground to re-connect with my existing collection of graphic based narratives, to delve and understand the relation of Image and Text and how they contribute to building a visual language and narrative.
Your art is somewhat of a confluence of classical and digitally rendered comic-book art, can you tell us about what kind of graphic-based narratives do you generally read?
But these days I’m reading the kinds which have done experiments with the narrative style, few of them being-Here by Richard McGuire; Unflattening by Nick Sousanis; Habibi by Craig Thompson. I am also going through some amazing interactive long-form web-comics which amalgamate with the third medium, Animation.
These are more contemporary in a sense, tell us about your early influences or inspirations?
I was introduced to the terminology of the comics ‘form’ by my senior, Saurabh Signapalli, who was then doing his Ph.D. research on Sequential art and storytelling. Before this introduction, all were just Comics. But when I read River of Stories by Orijit Sen & Maus by Art Spiegelman and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, they provided a good insight into the strength and subversive character of comic-based storytelling mediums. Also, in India, if one has not gone through the Modern Graphic novels, we had a rich culture of Graphic and Oral storytelling, one that ranges from Jataka Narratives of Ajanta to the folk narratives of Patua scrolls, Patachitra scrolls, Kaavad storytellers and several more to continue. I, however, remember the Patua scrolls that my mother had from a source, those without any text, and whenever I held them close, it felt like I was reading a new story each time. Our (me and my brother’s) summers were spent well by reading Pran/Raj/Diamond/Amar Chitra Katha that our Father used to rent for us.
After the decline of comic-book culture in India in the last fifteen years, do you think it has started resonating with readers again?
Its growing healthy and positive, the practitioners of the medium as well as the readers are showing interest and faith in this medium of expression. I also credit the crucial role of the organizers, who are educating the professionals, the artists, the writers and the masses who have been away from the touch of sequential art for a long time but are now aware that comic-books and graphic novels have extraordinary and real stories to tell.
Sequential art has always been criticised for its rather chaotic use of images and text, do you think the current narrative prevalent in graphic novels and the comic world reflects our political and social situations or is it only funny like comic-book content generally is?
Of course, it does, and that’s how I feel this medium liberates the teller. It is not only satire but political and non-fictional stories that can be told with unequivocal visual language. Right from the time I started reading A gardener in the Wasteland, Bhimayana , Munnu: a boy from Kashmir, River of Stories and Orijit sir’s recent First Hand Collective, I realized they all stand up for a cause, show us a picture, telling us a narrative much more impactfully than a conventional text. I think I would easily call this as a medium of resilience, given the kind of serious content India puts out in sequential art.
Given what you think about its political nature, do you think sequential art or the comics ‘form’ is a powerful medium to raise questions about our society and changing times?
It is already listed as the Ninth Art (Neuvieme Art), other being Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Music, Cinema, Poetry, and literature. This medium of sequential art or the comics ‘form’ as you state, definitely beholds the quintessence right from its origin as cartoon/comics, also comics behold such power that extends the periphery of image and text (which are otherwise individual) mediums. Authors like Orijit Sen, Guy Delisle, Joe Sacco and many more astounding Artists and writers have proved that it stands as a strong medium that will continue to be a mirror of our society and times.