Melding gravitas with graphics

A chat with Goa-based graphic novelist Orijit Sen who is bringing out a quarterly magazine for children that interweaves graphics, art and information
Last Updated : 03 July 2021, 20:15 IST
Last Updated : 03 July 2021, 20:15 IST

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In these testing times, our children are spending most of their time indoors, staring at mobile screens. And without a viable alternative, it is indeed near impossible to wean them away from their gadgets. Why not then turn to the good-old comic magazine filled with stories, graphics and loads of information?

‘Comixense’ a comics quarterly in English that published its first issue in April, could well be their ideal companion. This brightly coloured magazine, meant for young readers between 12 and 17 plus, is produced in collaboration with Ektara Trust and People Tree Studio.

“The comics’ medium allows a uniquely creative alchemy of art and words, which young readers of all ages and backgrounds find fascinating,” says Sanjeev Kumar, secretary, Takshila Educational Society, New Delhi. Ektara is its publication wing.

The magazine is edited by Goa-based artist Orijit Sen, whose graphic novel ‘River of Stories’(1994), which spoke about the issues related to the construction of Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat, is a pioneer in graphic art in the country.

For Kumar, Sen was “a natural choice because his acute understanding of art parallels his sensitivity towards our social concerns.”

For Sen, it was an opportunity in waiting as he always wanted to do something like this.

The best part about it is that it is in print format. “We intend to get children to hold the magazine, flip through its pages, immerse in the articles and cuddle with it!” says Kumar.

The debut edition of Comixense has five stories that are interwoven with graphics, art, and also an information chart related to the topic. These stories are brought together by the best of writers and artists of the country.

The first story —‘The Plague Doctor’s Apprentice’ by Indrajit Hazra and art by Mad Paule — is about the bubonic plague in Florence in 1630 with clever referring to today’s pandemic. This story is easier to relate to for obvious reasons.

The second story, ‘Love For Dummies’ by Venita Coelho and art by Pia Alize Hazarika, is set in the future and speaks about Artificial Intelligence and art. Its brightly coloured graphics are eye-catchy and quite profound.

Human connections

The next story, ‘City of Astronomers’ by Mohd Salman and art by Rai, speaks about astronomy. ‘The Razor & The Scalpel’ by Sheela Jaywant and art by Haasini Casukhela, is a story of a hospital barber who is as important a health worker as a surgeon in a hospital, but has remained unsung.

The last story in this edition is ‘The Captain’ by Anupam Arunachalam who has also illustrated it. It is an interesting story of a fishing boat/trawler captain. It speaks about the 2004 tsunami and its impact. The tale is a well-documented pictorial presentation of the lives of people on the sea. This comic was developed by Anupam for his project with the ‘Master Practice Studio’ conducted by Sen himself as part of the Kochi Muziris Biennale Foundation, 2017.

Sen, along with associate editor Francesca Cotta and consulting editor Annie Sen Gupta, brainstorm a theme for the topic. For the first edition, their theme was technology and technique and their relationship with the people who practice them.

For the July edition of Comixense, they are focusing on human connections with the forest and nature. For this, they have lined up five evocative stories.

One of them narrates the history of Pulicat Lake and its mangroves and how they are threatened due to the building of ports and other construction activities. It will also have a story by Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, writer of ‘The Adivasi Will Not Dance,’ that will highlight the Adivasis’ resistance against the destruction of their land and forests.

The challenges of print

As mentioned before, the magazine is in print format, which comes with its own set of challenges.

Kumar suggests that there is a dearth of comic magazines in the country. But it is a burgeoning genre in India that has a dedicated community of creators and readers. Also, he points out that comics as a medium is increasingly being used to re-tell mythological stories and folklore in graphic novels and also to cover stories of underrepresented voices and underreported social issues.

Sen believes that print is the natural home for comics and it will get revived in the times to come.

He says, “Technology doesn’t obliterate a medium or a form. The form adapts. The relationship of the medium to the form remains in different ways. It depends on the creativity of the users to keep that alive or take it forward to the next generation.”

He also shares that over-use of the digital medium to learn and entertain will restrict youngsters’ imagination and comics could come to the rescue, but only if it is approached correctly and is able to reach a wider audience.

Kumar suggests that all players — readers, distributors and publishers — have to come together to allow this medium to grow. “Only then will youngsters set aside their phones and tabs to pick up a comic,” he says.

For more details, visit www.comixense.com

Published 03 July 2021, 20:12 IST

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