11th Main, 9th Cross (Solo, Ojo and Karn)
After a volume focused on Hyderabad, graphic novel studio Syenagiri is now out with its latest offering, Bangalore: A Graphic Novel. The books are part of the Every City is a Story series that attempts is to package the ‘voice’ of a place and its inhabitants into a collection of illustrated stories. The new graphic novel features stories by a mix of artists, from stalwarts like Prashant Miranda, Zac O’Yeah and Appupen, to fresh faces such as Solo and Ramya Ramakrishnan. The next novel in the series is slated for a 2019 release and will put the spotlight on India’s sunshine state, Goa. Excerpts from an interview with Syenagiri co-founder Jaideep Undurti.
Mileage (Jai Undurti, Rupesh Arvindakshan); No More Coffee (Ramya Ramakrishnan)
A graphic novel anthology on a city could have diverse interpretations, especially one like Bengaluru, with its multiple ecosystems. How did this come through in this title?
We are all drowning in information now. So, we didn’t want to replicate that – making a sort of comic out of the Wikipedia entry on Bangalore wasn’t really what interested us. We wanted to move from information to imagination. At the outset, I wanted this to be Version 1.0, so to speak, keeping with Bengaluru’s IT pulse. The idea is that such a project also provokes a response, and opens the way to new and creative interpretations of what people make of their city.
Flipping through the stories, did you feel it represented the city: past, present and the future, or was it some kind of an intangible city beyond definition?
I think it very much was this intangible city in fragments that I thought was appropriate. We experience the city in this fragmented form, similar to how the panels in a chitrakatha combine to form a page. You take these experiences and let your imagination assemble them together. Sometimes, the idea of a city is more important than the city itself – the architecture, the streets and so on.
While it is not possible to generalise an anthology, what can a non-native take away from this collection?
Hopefully, the stories should stand on their own; that they are set in Bengaluru will be immaterial if you are looking to be entertained by some fine writing and fabulous artwork.
Some big names feature alongside unknown talent. How did you curate the list?
We got the team together in various ways. For instance, a few came in through a contest that we ran. I had interviewed Appupen for a magazine. I’d seen Prashant’s work and met him at an event in Hyderabad. The owner of Goobe’s Book Republic, an independent bookstore, suggested George Supreeth’s name. But “he only draws monsters”, I was warned. So when I spoke to George, I had to concede that there could be monsters beneath Bengaluru. And he certainly found them [in his story]!
Will we see a Mumbai anthology, after Goa?
Mumbai is an ocean of stories. We would have to continue what we are doing for years before we are ready to tackle a city like Mumbai. You could do whole graphic novels on individual localities, like Colaba or Bandra. Also, the city has been extensively written about by a galaxy of authors. Anything you put out would immediately compete with these volumes. We’ll save Bombay for last!
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