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Author interview

Comics have a universal appeal and humour is my main armour: Anupam Roy

In a candid chat with My Kolkata, the musician and author spoke about his penchant for writing graphic novels, his ‘Antony’ series, books that are close to him and more

Pooja Mitra | Published 27.03.24, 06:30 PM
In 2015, Anupam Roy released his first graphic novel, ‘Antony o Chandrabindoo’, and there have been many since including his latest ‘Cinemaye Antony’

In 2015, Anupam Roy released his first graphic novel, ‘Antony o Chandrabindoo’, and there have been many since including his latest ‘Cinemaye Antony’

We are all aware that Anupam Roy’s life revolves around singing — his profession and passion — but did you know comics are his true love? His love affair with comics began in childhood, when he inherited his father’s collection of Mickey Mouse and Mandrake comics, which ignited his love for graphic novels even more. He would spend hours reading the adventures of Tintin, Asterix, Bantul, Handa Bhonda and Nonte Fonte — a passion that continued well into his adult years. However, it was only recently that Anupam decided to create his own character for a comics series. In 2015, Anupam released the first of Antony’s escapades, Antony o Chandrabindoo, and there have been three books since then.

My Kolkata caught up with the singer and writer to listen to stories about his hero, Antony, his take on graphic novels and more.


Engineer to a graphic novelist — how the storyboard progressed

The Statesman used to have a children’s section, where a few of my comics strips were published. That was just the beginning,” recalled Anupam. Life took a different turn for this Jadavpur University gold medalist, when he quit his job as an engineer to take up music as a career. It was in 2010 when he got a break in the Bengali film, Autograph. It was around this time that he started thinking of creating his own comics character as well. “By that time I had become acquainted with Japanese manga, animations by Studio Ghibli and other forms of Japanese comics, which influenced me,” Anupam said.

An avid reader, Anupam has published three comic books in collaboration with graphic artists, bringing his tales to life. When asked about his take on the relevance of comics in literature, the author of Antony o Chandrabindoo, Bengalurute Antony and Cinemay Antony said, “Comics are a very integral part of literature. Like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman has a distinct language, so do Narayan Debnath’s comics. The graphic representation of a story holds a significant importance in literature.”

‘Comics are not always comical or for kids’

Though comics have a universal appeal, the Antony series, the author clarifies, is not meant for kids. “The books come with a disclaimer that they are only for adults,” said the author.

Experiences like heartbreak, battling with self-confidence, the various ideas of identity that one goes through in a lifetime, make the many tales of Antony relatable, but not necessarily funny.

Comics can touch on human behaviour and present a satirical take on society. “Humour is my main armour, but I try to address several things through that,” Anupam said. Graphic novels are not text-heavy. The crisp dialogues and brief narratives make this genre appealing to many. “Comics are the graphic representation of a story and that is what I find attractive,” explained Anupam, adding, “These days, people spend limited time on reading. Illustrations in graphic novels are immensely powerful. Concise text coupled with illustrations can often become a very powerful tool.”

Are comics serious literature?

Maus won a Pulitzer in 2002 and Jerusalem remains a poignant read, but the debate continues. Not for Anupam though. “For me, comics are an integral part of literature. Since the word ‘comic’ is often used in a humorous context, its gravity has been diluted. Charlie Chaplin is seen as a comic actor, but he is much more than that. Robi Ghosh is remembered for his comic roles, but he was an actor. The same goes for graphic novels — they are a part of literature with comedy in it but that does limit its scope,” he said.

As a contemporary writer, Anupam believes that humour is a powerful tool, alongside the five senses. “Tackling things with humour is an art,” he added.

What makes Antony special?

Antony is not his real name. He is Anant Nandy. “This is a representation of our current society where Bengali names are often anglicised. This guy is a victim of that,” explained Anupam.

Putting together a plot is the most difficult part for Anupam. Speaking about the first book of the series, Antony o Chandrabindoo, he reminisced, “I think it was more of a fandom. I was having a great time playing around with the lyrics of Chandrabindoo songs.” While the debut graphic novel established Antony’s character, for the author — who looks for plots in everyday life — the journey had only begun.

If you look at Antony, you will find a resemblance with Anupam. While he credits that to the graphic artist of the first book of the series, Anupam does not find too many similarities with his hero. “Antony is more of a passive character. Incidents happen around him and he gets entangled in them,” said Anupam. “If you read Bengalurute Antony and Cinemay Antony, you will notice a change in him, he is more active — and that’s because of the reader feedback on the passiveness of the protagonist,” he explained.

Anupam’s Antony is a bespectacled, lean guy. He has no biceps to flaunt, does not hit the gym, is not a foodie, nor does not have any stellar talent that gives him an X factor. He is one of us, and that’s what makes Antony relatable — with his flaws, quirks, life decisions. “Antony is just an ordinary guy. His ordinariness is his specialty. He has no superpowers,” — that’s how Anupam describes his character.

The creative process and a hidden wish

Anupam does not have a doodle book, where he scribbles while weaving his tales. So far that has been done by graphic artists Sambuddha Bishi, Shubha Chakraborty and Shubham Bhattacharya (Bhattababu). It is a creative collaboration that gives birth to Antony’s adventures.

His creative process has a structure. Anupam thinks about the plot from the beginning to the end. “I start writing the speech bubbles in a linear fashion. It takes him about a month or two to build the plot. The next part is the artist’s domain, which is time taking.

Anupam has penned the adventures of Antony, yet has never been on any. But he secretly nurtures a wish. Guy Delisle’s Burma Chronicles is one of his favourite reads and he wants to make it to Burma sometime. Bon voyage, we say!

Rapid Fire with Anupam Roy

Q. Who is your favourite cartoon character?

A. Cacofonix (Asterics)

Q. Who is your favourite author in the comic genre?

A. Albert Uderzo and René Goscinny,

Q. If Anupam Roy had to be on an adventure from a comic book, it would be…

A. Death Note

Q. What was the first comic book you read?

A. Mickey Mouse

Q. A comic book that you treasure?

A. My Nonte Fonte collection

Q.If you had to pick a song for Antony, which one would it be?

A. Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin

Last updated on 27.03.24, 06:30 PM

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