A City Through an Artist’s Eyes

For most, Calcutta is nothing more than a city overcome with age. Tired, grey and plagued by urban decay, Calcutta, for the newly introduced, is remarkably average. But for anyone who has spent years getting to know the lanes and bylanes that snake through the city’s soul, they realise that she has many faces — the coquettish tease, the indomitable rebel, the shy youngster, the exuberant performer… In every nook and corner of her being, she has stories waiting to be discovered. Stories of a glorious past- a cultural heritage that can be traced back to decades ago. And the best way to introduce her to anyone who has never encountered the city, is to take a tour through nostalgia laced pages representing the essence of the city. And that is exactly what Harsho Mohan Chattoraj does in his latest release Kolkata Kaleidoscope.

 

 

Written and illustrated by Chattoraj, the 60 page graphic novel boasts of 10 chapters- each representing what he believes to be an intrinsic part of the city. And perhaps, it is his love for the city that enables Chattoraj to capture its true essence– he painstakingly captures the rickshaws, the roadside barbers, the artistans bring to life Durga idols in the lanes of Kumortuli, the mossy graveyards and the city’s love for film and sports. But amidst these very personal sights, the artist takes the time to include the world famous ones too.

 

 

 

From Satyajit Ray and his influence on the city to the sweet shops that make headlines globally, Chattoraj’s brush works furiously as he brings to life not only places, but faces that add to the stories the city has to tell. “For me, this project started some two odd years ago,” says Chattoraj. As he spent his time seeing Kolkata closely, appreciating the different stories the city has to tell, he decided that it was time to use all the memories and the nostalgia to create the perfect graphic tribute to the city. “Kolkata is really not just about the places, but the people too,” explains Chottoraj. And the turning of each page makes you realise how apt a kaleidoscope Chattoraj’s graphic novel really is. However, though the artwork is stunning, the writing and the lettering of the book leaves you rather unimpressed. But having said that, I will also say that the art is beautiful enough to make you forget about the shortcomings of the book. After all, the visual journey that Chattoraj guides you through is honest and heart-warming.

 

 

Published by Speech Bubble Entertainment, a relatively new Kolkata-based publishing house, Kolkata Kaleidoscope is nothing like the other series they run. About a sleuth who is also a tantrik, Taranath Tantrik explores a fictional side of Kolkata – where a strange plague is turning innocents into blood-thirsty zombies. And though the publication of a non-fiction, documentary-influenced comic is far moved from what fans expect from them, to them, it is but a natural course of action.

 

 

“We at Speech Bubble Entertainment believe in promoting a comic in India and internationally if it is good,” says Prabuddha Neogi, co-founder of Speech Bubble Entertainment about their latest release. “For us tags like fiction and non-fiction do not matter. What matters is good work. And Harsho’s take on Kolkata was a story people needed to read. The kind of intricacies he has brought to life through the book are remarkable,” he explains. He also adds that this is the first of the Kaleidoscope series, which will gradually focus on the nuances of the cities of India. And that’s not all they have to offer. While they are all set to launch Taranath Tantrik 3 and 4 later this year, they also promise to release a full-length, action-packed graphic novel- Prophecies of the Conman. Co-authored by Joy Bhowmik and Sauvik Banerjjee, this forthcoming graphic novel is being illustrated by Chattoraj as well.

- by Solo
Writer, photo-taker, procrastinator. She is the quintessential cat lady who isn’t your regular breed of sane.