Syenagiri sews an assortment of fascinating stories in ‘Bangalore: A Graphic Novel’

Where Ramya Ramakrishnan, a budding artist, lounges at a coffee shop in the suburban Bangalore fantasising about the possibilities of a travel through time, a certain Appupen plods twenty years ahead of the present to a dystopic setting of the Garden City. And not far away, Prashant Miranda is busy reminiscing the days gone by in the heart of Karnataka, a ‘meditation on memory.’

These and many more heart-warming tales are at the foreground of Syenagiri’s latest venture Bangalore: A Graphic Novel. A second under the ‘Every City is a Story’ initiative, the book has been put together by nineteen different artists penning their own version of the city in the backdrop of assorted stories. One of them, Jai Undurti, opens up on the inspiration behind the book.

Syenagiri co-founder Jai Undurti with the novel on Hyderabad

“After completing Hyderabad, it was a natural choice to go to Bangalore. The city has a rich history and culture, but at the same time is quite different from Hyderabad so it gave us new challenges.”

He further added, “To give the background, we believe that a city is an ‘act of the imagination’. So the stories are not passively strung together in a collection but talk to each other – this conversation is the thread that ties the volume together. Bangalore as a city, after is all, is a place where the sum is greater than the parts.”

Undurti co-founded Syenagiri with Praveen Vempdapu and began the initiative of spinning comic stories of the Indian cities after working with artist Harsho Mohan Chattoraj. The latest byproduct of the same features nine fictional stories set in the Karnataka capital, copper-bottomed by elements of realism that provide a take-off point to each.

He also divulges how the ensemble of writers came together and the process behind it – “Bangalore also has a huge talent pool of authors and artists and we wanted to showcase the stories they wanted or needed to tell about their city. It is for this reason Bangalore: A Graphic Novel is an anthology. We wanted a mix of established artists as well as help those just breaking into the field.”

“We ran a contest for people to submit a pitch, reached out to artists and writers like Appupen and Prashant whose work we were already familiar with.”

Apparently, it took over a year for it to come together as one and the complexities of co-ordination amongst themselves wasn’t the only thing challenging. “We didn’t want a glorified version of a Wikipedia article, merely giving facts and figures. That is not the strength of the medium. At the same time, we didn’t want an overly abstract representation. Finding the middle ground and finding the voices was a challenge. There were logistical issues of course, but thanks to Skype and WeTransfer, these were surmountable,” explains Undurti.

The writers aside, Abhishek Malsuni is at the credits for an alluring cover while Neeraj Menon breathes life into it with intense shades of colours.

Undurti is absolutely avowed with the response when he says, “The response has been heartening. Bangalore has a very learned audience as far as comics are concerned and they have reacted positively to this, overall!”

So with Hyderabad and Bangalore documented, Syenagiri now has its sights set on the emerald land of Goa, targeting a 2019 release. “We plan to cover Goa as well as a global anthology, looking at Indian connections in cities all over the world,” he concludes.