Artist Spotlight: Ghanshyam Bochgeri

03Appearances can be deceptive. Ghanshyam Bochgeri comes across as a mild-mannered, scholarly individual, but arm him with a blank sketchbook and a pencil, and his Clark Kent to Superman transformation is complete. One of the many talented artists at Amar Chitra Katha, Ghanshyam has garnered an impressive fan following with his superb artwork, and has been published by Level 10 and Holy Cow Entertainment as well.

As a creator myself, I’ve had the privilege to work with him closely. Sincere, hardworking and open to criticism and feedback of all sorts, he’s a rare creature – a man of such incredible talent with the humility to temper that talent. When I approached him for this interview, his initial response was bewilderment at why anyone would want to write about him of all people. And no, there was not the slightest hint of sarcasm that I could detect!

Born and raised in Hubli, Karnataka, Ghanshyam was fascinated by comics from an early age – from the Vikram Betaal stories to Superman, it was all a wondrous world of untold delights as far as he was concerned. “I would sit in front of the TV and watch Streethawk with awe. I wanted to ride a bike like that but my dad wouldn’t buy me one,” he reminisces. Ghanshyam’s school notebooks were littered with doodles and cartoons. “I would draw till I got it perfect,” he says. Unlike most parents, his father encouraged and inspired him in his pursuit, being an artist himself. And once school was over and done with, Ghanshyam made his way to art school…where his dreams were effectively dashed. It’s not something that pleases him to think of, he says, speaking of his experience there. “I was not happy with the way they taught us. Yes, they did teach us to draw but at the end of the day, their approach was mechanical and redundant.”

Ghanshyam decided to take matters in his own hands and learn sequential art all by himself. Night after night, he’d stay up til dawn copying panels from comics while looking at tutorials. “Self learning is never easy but I had no option. I had to move ahead and not look back”,  he explains. Luckily for him, his uniquely kinetic style began attracting a fair bit of attention among his colleagues through whom he met his first client. The assignment: storyboarding, an area where his hours of practice with comic art stood him in excellent stead. Around this time, he also entered a contest for Level 10 which he subsequently won, and suddenly, there he was, pushed right into the deep end of professional comic creation. “It was my foray into professional comics,” he smiles. “I was super happy. I was chasing deadlines and having goosebumps at the same time.”

Ghanshyam has worked with many different writers and has had to adapt himself to an entirely different sort of script every time. The key, according to him, is to be on the same page with the writer. “If a writer wants me to draw what they want, then I don’t have any choice but to follow their lead,” he admits. Naturally he prefers it when writers have an understanding of visual elements. “It is an added advantage if the writer has some knowledge of cinematography and angles. That helps make my art look good,” he grins. “ At times perspective drawing can be challenging, but then, I do love a good challenge.”

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When I ask him if he gets tired of drawing the same characters every time, the answer is an emphatic NO! “Somehow, I don’t get tired of drawing those characters. When I was a kid, I read each and every Shikari Shambu or Suppandi story. And now I draw them,” he elaborates. “It’s rather overwhelming and gratifying, thanks to my colleagues and friends – Neel Paul, Shreya Ghate, Rajani Thinidiath and Savio Mascrenahas.” As I run out of questions, Ghanshyam points to a few greytone markers I’d given him once. “Manual drawing is fun with pens and markers,” he says. “I normally sketch with a 2H pencil and once I get my lines correct, I flesh them out with a 2B before  the toughest part – inking.” Then, as if to demonstrate his words, he picks up a pencil and proceeds to draw a rather jaunty looking cat for Striptease the Mag!