The River of Art

The Jaipur Literature Festival came to an end today. But lakhs of footfalls at the venue viewed huge eye-catching 3-D characters from world of books like Anna Karenina, Red Riding Hood and others. And these were brought to life by graphic artist Orijit Sen, who has penned the first graphic novel of India, the River of Stories. He is one the founders of The Pao Collective of Comics book artists. His PAO:The Anthology of Comics won the second Comic Con India Award in 2012 in the best graphic anthology category. His diverse works include public art works, which have been exhibited in India, England, Russia, France, Canada and various other countries. The Disappearing Tiger, a t-shirt designed by him has been recently featured at The Fabric of India exhibition at The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Rajasthan Post’s Iram Tasleem caught up with him at the Lit Fest

How did you get interested in graphic art?

I have been interested in drawing since my childhood. I am a Bengali. I spent few years of my life in Rajasthan as my father was a cartographer and was posted at Mount Abu and my mother used to teach us to read and write Bangla. She had a primary book of Bangla, which has nice illustrations and she used to make us practice writing words. Instead of writing, I used to draw pictures from that book. So even before I could actually read and write, I started drawing.

Is this your first time at JLF? How did the idea of these 3-D literary installations come about?

Anubhav Nath, who runs Ojas Art Gallery puts up some of his artistic work here. He approached me for JLF, and I thought it would be interesting to do something new for the festival because I love literature a lot. When I came and saw the space in the palace, the lawns and people walking around, I felt it would be really nice to do 3-D installations. I thought of doing installations of some of my favourite characters from literature, who have inspired me in my life. Then I started to make list of characters that I would like to do. It was difficult to choose only six characters. It was a bit like the Man Booker prize process. First I have made a long list, then a short list and finally I decided on these six characters. They are from six different novels of different genres.


You have made these 3-D installations from recycled stuff.

I like working with cheap and common material, which everybody uses in their day to day affair. So I use material that people can connect with, so I thought of bamboo, wire, paper, textile, and other recycled objects. Like the gun of one character is made up of old pencil box of mine.

Did you make these installations keeping in mind the children?

When something is good and new it can be appreciated by children and adults both. Kids loved it and so did the adults.

Tell us about any one of your favourite characters among these six and why is it your favourite?

I cannot choose one. All six are my favourites. But if I have to select randomly, it would be Anna Karenina, a character from novel of Leo Tolstoy. I like her because of her powerful, complex character. That novel is also one of the greatest novels of all times. At the end of the novel, she commits suicide by jumping under the train. Here I have shown her standing symbolically. Here track symbolises the two parallel streams in her life and that she is trying to balance between the both.


Tell us about graphic novel, River of Stories.

When I was a kid I loved comics. I used to read comics, collect comics and I started drawing my own comics also. I love telling stories and drawing comics is a logical way to combine both the things. I started making comics with my own characters in school. Then when I went to NID, Ahmedabad to study graphic designing, I came across interesting comics not just for kids but graphic novels like Maus comic by artist Art Spiegelman. It gave me an idea to draw a comic book on a subject that I was passionate about. After NID, I got involved with Narmada Bachao Andolan, a movement of building of a dam in the Narmada valley. I got so inspired by the movement that I decided to create a graphic novel based on it and named it River of Stories.

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