Friday, June 20, 2008

Brishti Bheja Shohor (A Rain-soaked City)

Somewhere down by the lakeside a soggy crow is looking around, sozzled by the first rains. Couples are running with utmost haste, their hair and umbrellas askew. Trees swing wildly at the first rush of showers and the storm picks up, spraying water at all and sundry.
Many passers-by have taken shelter under the ledges and in the doorsteps of old, calm houses. A young boy peers out from his raincoat, as the heat abates, bringing a cold whistling wind in its wake.
On such days I would sit and watch the sky from my window as it turned black from a murky grey. Curtains would move heralding the coming of a storm. And then the rain would come, accompanied by squeals of joy from the children next door.
These are the scenes, which inspired the meghdootam, telling tales of a long lost love. This is the atmosphere which inspires many a Tagore song, perchance Emono dine taare bhola jaay? (Can one forget her on such a day). Perhaps it is Kolkata which one remembers the most at such times.
I remember a particular day when I had gone down to the house of a dear friend. Next to a cavernous wind-swept highway, was a pretty pool surrounded by many a protective house. The rain felt it lovingly with its fingers creating ripples of varied geometric designs. Later, ale in hand I looked on at this picture the rain god hath drawn. And wondered, how many more rains would I be privileged to witness? And yet this moment was all that would matter till the end.
Now I can only feel the caress of the rain through the panes of a wind-lashed toweras the city beneath me floats. It is at such times that I miss home. Emono dine taare bhola jaay?

(Written by a dear friend)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A sneak-peek into Graphic Novels

There’s a world beyond DC and Marvel. The world of Maus, Sandman, Marv and of course Digital Dutta. Don’t sound familiar, right? They are the Batmans and Spidermans of graphic novels. A graphic novel (GN) is a form of comics, with lengthy and complex storylines, catering to a mature audience. The term was popularised after it appeared on the cover of paperback edition of Will Eisner's groundbreaking 'A Contract With God' (1978). Each story has a beginning, middle and an end, like in Sin City Marv avenges the death of his beloved Goldie and dies. Unlike a comic series like Daredevil or Elektra where there’s a new adventure in each issue.
Pulitzer Prize winner Maus: A Survivor's Tale is a memoir by Art Spiegelmen of his father's struggle to survive the Holocaust as a Polish Jew. It also follows the author's troubled relationship with his father and the way the effects of war reverberate through generations. The Jews are depicted as mice and can be seen as weak and helpless victims, as well as satarising the Nazi depiction of a Jew. The Germans, as cats, suggest power over the Jews, as well as malevolence (cats often play with mice before killing them).
Frank Miller's Sin City, on the other hand, talks about a fictional town in American Northwest where a large number of attractive women were 'imported' by Roark family to keep the miners happy. They made a fortune and turned a struggling mining camp into a thriving , bustling city. I know you were wondering where the 'Sin' came from. Not really kid's stuff, isn't it? It was written in a film noir style, which is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime drama, particularly those that emphasise moral ambiguity and sexual motivation.
It's movie adaptation with stars like Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke, was a blockbuster. The movie remained very true to the GN, even the colour scheme was not tampered with — and that was the reason behind its success. Even, the latest flick based on Frank Miller's 300 follows that golden rule. It's about the Battle of Thermopylae (480BC) where Spartan King Leonidas and 300 Spartans fight against the army of one-million soldiers of Persian King Xerxes. It inspires Greece to unite against Persian invaders.
The one that tried to experiment with the feel and made look like any other movie was 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' starring Sean Connery and Naseeruddin Shah. It bombed at the box office.
There are others, like Maus and 300, which have been inspired by history, but fortunately, not limited by it. The latest being Sarnath Banerjee's second tranch The Barn Owl's Wonderous Capers. It's inspired by the legend of the Wandering Jew and is an irreverent tale of illicit sex and drunken religiosity.
Movies have a wider appeal and have given GNs a larger audience. But, to fall in love with graphic novels you don’t need a movie adaptation.