Sunday, April 03, 2016

Interview with Sarnath Mukherjee, graphic novelist

The full texture of the city, interview by Ratik Asokan:
Ratik Asokan:"Indeed, I never imagined the comics would be more than a fundamentally escapist medium for me.
That all changed in 2004 with the publication of Corridor, Sarnath Banerjee’s debut graphic novel. Rendered in a mixture of photographs, drawings, and text, Corridorfollowed the lives of three ordinary men who whiled away their time in a second-hand Delhi bookstore. The world it depicted—one of roadside hustlers and garish billboards, of liberated college students and their conservative landlords, of trendy parties and shady markets—was, for the first time, entirely familiar.
Though rooted in the local textures of Delhi street life, Corridor was driven by an assured, cosmopolitan sensibility. Banerjee made it his business to gleefully make collide east and west, culture and kitsch, high and low—to make Baudrillard wash himself with the local Liril soap. His early aesthetic, in which characters drawn in a sparse western comic style are often superimposed on billboards and street photographs of Delhi, brilliantly mimicked the mentality of post-colonial urbanites who straddled different cultures."
Sarnath Mukherjee: "I want to make sense of things, to understand the world, but my work is never really instructional. I have no wisdom to impart or give, so I think my dream readers would be people who just use the book as an excuse to get into their own cycle of thoughts. The book is just like a map. It’s just a jotting-down of things that you can interpret in your own ways......

Having said all that, I should acknowledge that the Vikaspuri book grows out of my obsession with our country’s obsession with development. I’ve told you a lot about love and empathy and liking people, but I find it very difficult to relate to India’s new middle class. This very patriotic and neoliberal group that mixes religion and economics together. I find them very irksome. Very difficult to like. They are privileged, but they don’t want to talk about their privilege. It’s difficult to find poetry amongst these people. Some sort of hidden spirit of beauty. But I tried with this book to mock the South Delhi people. They don’t just have a caste system: they have instilled a caste system amongst their staff, from the driver to the gardener they have a caste system. It’s almost as if whatever they touch they turn into a caste system."

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