Balkishan er bhishon beesh… phish phish, phish phish…
These lines from Satyajit Ray’s short story Khagam have never failed to send chills down our spine. One of Ray’s scariest stories, Khagam, has now been turned into a graphic novel to attract young readers.
The first-ever Bengali graphic novel on Ray’s short stories, Khagam, is a labour of love by Shamik Chatterjee of design collective Grinning Tree.
Chatterjee embarked on the project, hoping to make the stories accessible to a young audience. “My daughter hardly reads Bengali books and so many young people, especially those growing up abroad, don’t have the patience to read wordy texts. A graphic novel, which is essentially a picture book, might make them read classics like Khagam,” he said.
Khagam is a scary story of a narrator, his companion Dhurjati Babu, a sadhu called Imli baba and his pet krait.
The idea of Khagam was born during Ray's visit to Bharatpur to finalise the location for Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne.
“While staying at the Circuit House in Bharatpur, an individual approached us with a tale of a sadhu baba, who had kept a snake under his control,” Sandip Ray recalled at the launch of the graphic novel at Starmark on January 27.
Although Bharatpur didn't work out as a location for the film, the seeds of Khagam had already been sown in Ray's mind.
Khagam was a natural choice to start with the graphic novel format because of its chilling storyline, which translates well as a graphic novel.
“My father was first a filmmaker and, therefore, all of Baba's work have the potential to become a film or, in this instance, a graphic novel,” said Sandip Ray.
Sandip Ray at the launch of the graphic novel at Starmark on January 27Soumyajit Dey
Chatterjee, who has been working on design projects for years, also wanted to finally own the rights of a project he worked on.
“I have been doing design work for years now but all those have become IPs for other people. Some of our film posters are sold online without any credit and as artists it pinches. So we wanted to have something we could call our own,” said Chatterjee, who has been credited in the 100-page hardbound edition for conceptualisation, storyboarding and art direction.
Shamik Chatterjee (centre), has been credited in the hardbound edition for conceptualisation, storyboarding and art directionSoumyajit Dey
The decision to start with Ray’s short stories was a combination of the iconic status of the author and easier access. “We have been working with Babu da (Sandip Ray) for years, so he had that trust in us. We went back and forth with him during the execution of the book and he is happy with how it has turned out,” said Chatterjee.
Once the rights for Khagam and nine other stories were acquired, Chatterjee went to the drawing board with Arka Chakraborty for storyboarding. The artwork and illustration for the novel have been done by Subhabrata Bose. It was the screenplay that posed a challenge for the team but Utsav Mukherjee proved up to the task. It is here that Sandip Ray was consulted most for feedback. The cover of the book was done by Sourin Das. Antara Chowdhury was in charge of overall coordination and execution.
The screenplay posed a challenge for the team, but Utsav Mukherjee (pictured) proved up to the taskSoumyajit Dey
“I have attempted at showcasing the impact of the sounds in the dialogue usage after my meeting with Sandip da. Khagam with graphics will be a different experience for all readers,” Mukherjee said.
“We are very happy with the final product and we hope that it will bring young people into the world of Satyajit Ray. Babu da said that the book will be considered successful if it encourages young people to look for the source, and we sincerely hope it does that,” said Chatterjee.
Another panel from ‘Khagam’Grinning Tree LLP
Work on the project started pre-pandemic, getting stalled multiple times during the pandemic. The cost of the book, from acquiring the rights to execution to production and promotion were done by Grinning Tree. Single Shot, launched by Chatterjee and Subhomoy Sengupta have taken charge of publishing and distribution.
Priced at Rs 850, Khagam is available at several bookstores and some coffee shops, as well as on Amazon and Flipkart.