City of Joy No More

An old legend rewritten, Speech Bubble Entertainment’s Taranath Tantrik (TnT) City of Sorrows- Part 1 is the beginning of a modern day urban legend- one that pays homage to forgotten stories of the past and a city that is plagued by unexplained terrors.

 

 

The day seemed like any other ordinary one in the City of Joy, Calcutta. Bustling with life and busy, there was no reason to believe that the day would soon take a turn towards the horrific. As people headed towards the metro station, they didn’t for once think that there would be witness to acts of gore and violence. But in the underbelly of the city, in the network of train lines and metro stations, unknown to all, a deadly plague began to take shape. By tapping into the minds of the affected, rage, bloodlust and fury, soon become the order of the day as bewildered bystanders watch in horror. And who could investigate this curious case of blood thirst better than Taranath Tantrik himself?

 

 

Inspired by a character created by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, the author who introduced to the world the story of Apu in Pather Panchali, Taranath Tantrik is far from the gods and superheroes who are usually given the honour of playing the protagonist in most Indian graphic novels. “Bibhutibhushan wrote two Taranath Tantrik stories, about an elderly gentry who is a fortune teller and had several supernatural experiences in his past life. Though the character was very interesting,” says Shamik Dasgupta, writer, TnT. “If adapted literally, we have very little to play around. I decided to give Taranath Tantrik a face-lift and bring him for modern audience. We made him a supernatural investigator, dealing with the occult,” he explains when asked why Taranath Tantrik was modernised thus.

 

 

Though Dasgupta, very ambitiously, chooses to compare this “paranormal investigator” to Sherlock Holmes, those who have been exposed to the world John Constantine, full of magic and mayhem, realise that he is closer to the expletive spewing, cigarette smoking man who treads the thin lines between the realms we know and the supernatural realms beyond. But in either case, the comparisons do not feel right. After all, Taranath is not the genius from 221 B and neither is he the antihero from Liverpool. He is a man born out of inspiration, a man of fallacies and flaws…

One of the best-known writers in the realm of Indian comics currently, Shamik Dasgupta’s storytelling is competent, as usual. But sadly, Bikash Satpathy’s art does leave a nagging sense of doubt in my mind. Especially when the cover by Sumit Kumar and Abhishek Singh promises so much. While some might choose to argue about how cover illustrations have been distinctly different from the pages that follow, it is only fair to complain when expectations are raised and then, shattered.

 

 

However, it would be wrong to state that Satpathy entirely fails as an artist because there are full-page instances of him working magic with colours, but at times, the magic fades and the inconsistency makes you sad- simply because it fails to live up to all the hype surrounding the book on social media. But considering the fact that the publishing house, Speech Bubble Entertainment, has shown great promise with its recent releases, we can only hope that Taranath leaves behind a legacy that is actually comparable to John Constantine’s.