The Barn Owl's Wondrous Capers: Sarnath Banerjee

Sarnath Banerjee has found an unlikely source of inspiration in Indian publishing. Both his books have been very high in kitsch content from a couple of decades back.

Graphic novels, the genre in itself seems a bit rebellious in nature to traditional novels, so criticizing him of not sticking to the usual style seems to detract from the defiant spirit of the genre. But though his mixing of different print forms like old adverts, photos,naked women drawn on ruled notebook paper, history book illustrations is mildly interesting, its no different from a comic book attempt in TimeOut or a MTV collage.

Sarnath Banerjee's habit to use kitsch as a tool seems passe. This worked fairly well for his first book, mainly because of the nostalgic 'Ha Ha!' that looking at old movie posters or calendars propagating hygiene, evokes. Carrying the style through to his next book in a similar fashion takes away from the story telling.

He definitely has a story to tell, going by the oddball Calcutta characters and their eccentricities that he has threaded together using his comeback character, Digital Dutta. The decadent British and just plain crazy Babu's of old Calcutta would surely fill up a lot of pages with their antics.
But when the best illustration is actually a photo with black marker outlines on it, it doesn't say much for the illustrator.

In a graphic novel, you can say so much more with just a few well placed swirls. I would really like to see him do just that, be more brave with the illustrations.

I would say, go back to the drafting table and draw... just draw.


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