Graphic Artist Harsho Mohan Chattoraj, who is behind the wonderful illustrations of the graphic novel Chakrapurer Chakkare in a conversation with Sholoana Bangaliana correspondent Priyanka Dutta revealed some intricate details of the art form.
Priyanka Dutta, Sholoana Bangaliana–Hi Harsho, please tell us a little about yourself and your career in comics.
Harsho Mohan Chattoraj-I have been in this field for roughly around 16 years now. It all started first with a small weekly comic strip column I had in the Statesman newspaper which lasted for more than a year. Then I created something bigger – a comic for the Sandesh magazine with a friend. Soon, I was creating a web comic with a UK-based collaborator (which is out in print now). All this was more than a decade ago. As the years progressed, I had a US-based graphic novel ‘Charlz of Marz’ coming out, then a few comics here and there for a few US publishers. By that time, plans were being made, fences were being built. Work was not steady yet, but it flourished soon, with Indian companies joining the mix. Till then, work had been mostly from foreign collaborators. Around this time, I went on an Indo – Swiss exchange program for graphic novelists to check out the partner country, and my 14-page comic found a place in the resulting anthology – ‘When Kulbhushan Met Stockli’. Back home, The at-home work environment was better and I found friends in Amar Chitra Katha, Comic Jump and Comic Con India (I had been a regular contributor for the comic magazine – ‘Random’ – that their base company used to bring out regularly ). I did a couple of graphic novels for Comic Con India – ‘Munkeeman’ and ‘Widhwa Ma Andhi Behen’ weas out there. I had a monthly comic series in the monthly ‘Comic Jump’ magazine called ‘The Rabhas Incident’, and it was a good hit. It even got me nominated for the Best Artist Award at the 2013 Comic Con Awards ceremony. I did not win the prize, but I got the award for the Best Unpublished Graphic Novel – a short 8 pager which I will be transforming soon into a big graphic novel as soon as I get time.I had also been doing small comics for the Tinkle magazine for some time – Amar Chitra Katha finally allowed me to do a big comic – ‘DhyanChand’. It was a good hit. That got me nominated for the Best Artist Award at the recently concluded 2014 Comic Con Awards ceremony.
Last year, another big project finally came to fruition. The ‘Hyderabad Graphic Novel’ Project, which had been ongoing for more than 3 years, with me as lead artist, collaborating with a friend Jaideep Undurti, was out. It’s going to be properly launched this year at the Bangalore Comic Con, along with another graphic novel I’m collaborating on with Jaideep at the moment. Another project that was completed and awaiting a print release is a rather nice graphic novel I wrote and drew called ‘The Masterpiece’. The release date is near, according to my publisher. And just recently, ‘Chakrapurer Chakkare’, which took me eight months of hard labour to complete, was released. My best work yet, as I took care of everything, starting from the script to artwork, colors and lettering.
Priyanka Dutta, Sholoana Bangaliana–How did Chakrapurer Chakkare happen for you? Who contacted you?
Harsho Mohan Chattoraj– I was contacted by the Starmark CEO, Mr. Gautam Jatia, who had got my contact data from a Jadavpur University senior and friend, Pinaki De ( another good artist ). We discussed the plans of a second graphic novel based on the works on Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay ( ‘Goshaibaganer Bhoot’ was already out ) and things fell into place soon.
Priyanka Dutta, Sholoana Bangaliana– What attracted you towards the book Chakrapurer Chakkare?
Harsho Mohan Chattoraj- I have been a fond reader of Sirshendu Babu’s novels ( they used to be regularly published in the ‘Anandamela’ puja issues since my childhood ) and had read the novel before. It had quite a few lovable characters, and the amazing style of writing and the classic move of bad things escalating to a point where change for the better ( from an invisible godly force ) had to appear around the corner, made it a good book to be converted into a graphic novel for consumption by readers of all ages.
Priyanka Dutta, Sholoana Bangaliana– What did you keep in mind while doing the script and the artwork of this book?
Harsho Mohan Chattoraj– Well, the script was the easy part. I knew the story and had charted it’s weaves and turns, and planned the layout of the graphic novel. I knew I had to paint the classical old world look of Bengal that Sirshendu babu tries to portray in his stories. The clothing had to be exactly correct, the backgrounds – houses, fields, broken down palatial mansions – they all had to be done exactly right. And a visit to Taki with my family helped the collection of data and reference pictures mightily at this point. I had my script ready, I had the character definitions ready, and the artwork references were just itching to be used. All that needed to be done to put a final closure was the artwork.
Priyanka Dutta, Sholoana Bangaliana– Do you think that there will be a growth in Bengali graphic novel tradition in the city?
Harsho Mohan Chattoraj– I certainly hope so. There are so many wonderful Bengali authors – Shirshendu Mukherjee, Satyajit Ray, Shibram Chakraborty, Sanjib Chattopadhyay, Sharadindu Bandopadhyay , to name a few – whose works would look really nice in graphic novel format. And there are writers and artists who’d certainly bring that to fruition, if given a chance. It all depends upon the publishers. Starmark is the only one who’s actually seemed interested. And ABP has brought out a few of Satyajit Ray’s works out in comic form before. But the other houses have simply been indifferent. They need to sit up and take notice and see that there’s a good option in front of them.
Priyanka Dutta, Sholoana Bangaliana– Do you think that graphic novel will hamper the original novel reading habit or will it actually increase the reading habit among children?
Harsho Mohan Chattoraj– It will promote the enthusiasm to read ( or in some cases, re-read ) the original novel which inspired the graphic novel. I can see it as a positive effect. But not just among kids – among people of all ages. You see, graphic novels are not restricted to any age boundary. At least, not in the current times.
Priyanka Dutta, Sholoana Bangaliana– What do you feel will be the impact of graphic novels in the days to come in Kolkata?
Harsho Mohan Chatterton- Quite a lot, I hope. Like I mentioned earlier, lots of great literature have been created in Bengali literature by the greats. It’s time to give them a more malleable form for the understanding mind-shapes of the reading public.
Priyanka Dutta, Sholoana Bangaliana– Devi Chaudhurani has already been adapted as a Graphic novel. Would you like to do such work in Bengali literature? Do you have any novel which you will like to adapt?
Harsho Mohan Chattoraj– Shamik Dasgupta, a friend, has done a lot of graphic novels before, and ‘Devi Chaudhurani’, written by him, is a very good one.
There are indeed other novels I would like to adapt. A few Satyajit Ray , Shirshendu Mulhopadhyay and Narayan Gangopadhyay novels would be definitely on the top of that list.
Priyanka Dutta, Sholoana Bangaliana– What are you future plans?
Harsho Mohan Chattoraj– The most important plan is to keep creating. I am a freelancing graphic novelist, meaning I have but one job – to create graphic novels, and occasionally caricatures ( like the IPL T20 caricatures for the 7 team franchises Kingfisher has under its banner this year ) and illustrations ( for magazines like ‘Jetwing’ and ‘Caravan’ ) along the way. I have started walking in a certain direction almost a decade back and I intend to proceed on the same path, only trying to improve and refine my work and get more ideas as I move along.
Priyanka Dutta, Sholoana Bangaliana– What advice will you like to give to budding talents who want to follow in your foot steps and enter the world of graphic novels?
Harsho Mohan Chattoraj– The only advice I can give is to just create. Don’t think of whether your work will be accepted by publishers or not. Whether your project will be published or not, just do your work. As you keep working, you will start improving, and when you reach that invisible target point, your work will be just so good that no publisher can refuse you.
Interviewer: Priyanka Dutta
Priyanka Dutta takes a keen interest in lifestyle and entertainment related news. She also enjoys interviewing celebrities and other renowned personalities. Priyanka holds a post graduate degree in English and Mass Communication. Journalism is her passion and she has reported for many a reputed international web portals.