Festivals are an integral part of our lives. They’re a symbol of unity, harmony, togetherness and enjoyment. And for Bengalis it’s all the more, as the common saying goes- ‘13 festivals in 12 months’; the greatest being Durga Puja. To portray a vivid description of the celebrations during these five days, Kolkata based comic artist Satrajit Choudhury is coming up with a new Bengali graphic novel, Utsav.
Set in late-90s Kolkata, the story tracks a mystery along with the funny things which happen during the Puja in a big apartment. The content will be 16+ and full of characters belonging to multiple age groups. Aimed at 48 pages, AnimationXpress had a chat with Satra about the book:
Why did you choose to do a graphic novel set in 90s Kolkata, during Durga Puja?
I’m a 90s kid myself and actually grew up in an apartment. The atmosphere during the Puja is completely different. The story has a semi-autobiographical essence.
What genre will this book cater to, as you mentioned it tracks a mystery along with some funny things during the festival?
The category would be “Slice of Life”. Think of any graphic novel by Rutu Modan. Not too preachy, not too fantastic, rooted in reality.
Do you intend to give a closer look at Pujas conducted at residential campuses and distinguish it with that of community ones?
Per my experience, the Pujas happening in campus and community were not too different in spirit. I’ll not highlight any difference consciously.
Is it in print or digital? When will it be released?
Print. We are targeting a release date in March. The novel is being published by Nishad, a Kolkata based publisher. They also have published Puchki, a book of cartoons by famous singer Upal.
What influenced you to take up this project?
Originally I wanted to run a cartoon series called 5 days of Durga Puja. Featuring one-panel cartoons about various aspects of Durga Puja. While drawing the individual panels, I realised that these can be strung together into a graphic novel. Another influence was The Castafiore Emerald – the Tintin novel which Herge created solely to live up to the challenge of making a completely indoor Tintin adventure.
How important is the role of the festival in the book?
Extremely important. People in an apartment come together and many nice things happen simply because of the festival. The festival is the main character, I would say.
What are your next projects after this?
There’s a project which actually is happening previous to this. An English one-shot graphic novel about a real story of Aleppo, Syria. About a man who rescued abandoned cats in war-torn Aleppo.
What according to you is special about this project?
As I said earlier, it’s semi-autobiographical. There are bits of me, my childhood friends, their adolescent misadventures in this story.
Though Durga Puja comes next year, the book promises to be a treat in this genre and with independent artists like him, who’s quite popular on social media with his page ‘Comics by Satra’, the industry just gets better.