Sarnath Bannerjee

Arts Collaboration

Grant Period: Over one year and six months

Sarnath Bannerjee is a graphic novelist, artist and film maker based in Delhi. He studied image and communication at Goldsmiths College, University of London. His first novel, Corridor (2004), published by Penguin Books, was India's first graphic novel. His second novel The Barn Owl's Wondrous Capers was published in 2007.

Exploring the popular culture of Kolkata, illustrator Sarnath Banerjee and filmmaker Anindya Roy will create a narrative of their “inner impressions of the city.” They will burrow into Kolkata’s cultural past against the background of the tastes, eccentricities, social habits and aspirations of the man in the street. The resulting ‘graphic novel’ will comprise photography, comic book illustration and text combining the form of a journal and a travelogue.

Banerjee and Roy will employ a methodology that is in keeping with the spirit of a memoir rather than a tract. They feel that an open-ended and friendly dialogue between themselves, which brings into play differing individual perceptions of the city, should provide the starting point for the graphic novel.

They are interested in how the popular culture of 19th century Bengal manifests itself in today’s Kolkata. The collaborators are keen to explore the sensibility, folk wisdom, attitudes and mores underlying the popular art of the19th century. They are taken up with the defining mood of a “civilisation based on leisure.”

Sarnath and Anindya propose to write about forms such as Jatra (popular theatre). They are particularly interested in the satirical and comic elements in many folk and popular forms, for instance, the “sycophants, hangers-on, anglicised bhadralok” in the sculpted images of Kumartuli and the ironic imagery of Kalighat paintings. They will also look at how the folk culture of Kolkata underwent a steady decline towards the end of the 19th century with the emergence of the Victorian-influenced ‘polite society’.

The two of them hope to find a mainstream publisher for their manuscript. They also expect to have the book serialised in a national daily and will look for sponsorship for exhibitions to display the process of writing the graphic novel.