Wednesday 8 December 2021

                                      Q&A with graphic novelist Nandita Basu

Rain Must Fall  is author Nandita Basu's second graphic novel ( The Piano being the first). It is a tender coming of age story of a teenager and her friendship with a ghost and how they both help each other to resolve personal contentious issues. A wonderful story, which will appeal to all teenagers as well as adults.

Here's a brief Q&A with Nandita, conducted over mail.

Q1. So let’s start from the beginning. When did you realise you wanted to be a graphic novelist? Are you a professional visual artist or self-trained?

Well I was in my twenties when I was introduced to Franco-Dutch graphic novels by a friend and that world drew me in completely. I was into writing but this introduction changed my expression. As far as being an artist goes, I am not trained. I used to draw comic panels and illustrations to entertain a very dear friend of mine who was terminally ill. Writing stories and drawing was a way to brighten up her day.

Q2. What in your opinion is more important in a graphic novel – the visuals or the story?

It’s actually a very delicate balance. Words and visuals are constantly in conversation with each other, and if any one of them become dominant, it could just end up sounding like an argument. I suppose it is much like brewing a good cup of tea.

Q3. Since you also play the piano, was your first graphic novel (The Piano) partly autobiographical?

No, it’s not autobiographical. But having said that, I think every writer ends up expressing some part of their life sub-consciously in a book. Of course the piano, Marcus Aurelius is a real piano that I own and I do relate to it as more than an inanimate object . But I have never had to lose it thankfully. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Q4. Now about your latest (2nd) work- Rain Must Fall. How did this come about?

Honestly, I don’t plan books. They just happen. So in this case. Rain just fell. It took me about four months to finish it. This was right in the middle of the pandemic. But I must add, it was not because I had a lot of time on my hands then:) It was quite the contrary. So I have no idea how Rain Must Fall ended up happening. It just did.

Q5. How did the idea of using a ghost (albeit a friendly one) as an important character come to you?

We are all ghosts inside, aren’t we!! The spirit is the finer part in us, ( that’s my belief) and it is beyond boundaries of society . So I felt the friend Rumi had to encounter quite literally had to be out of this world. Besides, When I was about 14, I had a great desire to meet the ghost of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and hang out with him. Of course that never happened. That was also an inspiration for Rain.

Q6. Rumi is rather an unusual name for the teenage protagonist. Any specific idea behind it?

Yes, I love Rumi’s poetry. This poet found eternal truth and in that way his name stands for freedom for me. For me that name represents going beyond the physical form.  I wanted the main character of my book to carry a name that speaks of the same freedom. It also fit the character because  I didn’t want a conventional gender oriented name for the protagonist.

Q7. Do you think confusion regarding gender (as in the case of Rumi) is a common phenomenon nowadays amongst teenagers? If yes, why?

Well, I don’t believe it’s confusion. It’s more about someone confronting their own truth. And it’s a process, the time involved can be different for everyone. The way one approaches it can also be different. These days teenagers are more aware and have a lot more avenues and information which they can access when they identify differently. So that just gives them more space to express and even start understanding their own feelings. That’s the only reason one gets to see/hear about it more.

Q8. I think in India there’s still low acceptance of boys opting for activities traditionally associated with girls ( like the character of Dada in the novel). What do you think?

Absolutely, but if I may add, the Arts as a discipline is not a preferred professional choice for most families, (I don’t think this is restricted to India alone). Add that to a boy and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Q9. Rain Must Fall is a much longer work than The Piano. Was this intentional? And how long did it take to complete it?

Yes, The Piano was meant for a different age group. Another thing I wanted to convey in that book was a sense of time passing without the reader being caught in it. So the briefness was important. Rain Must Fall, is meant for a slightly older audience , also the story has a lot more emotions, the characters needed a little more depth as opposed to the one’s in The Piano. Like I have mentioned earlier I finished it in four months.

Q10. Do you write down the story first and then work on the graphics or both the things go on simultaneously?

It’s integrated. I actually see most of the pages and hear the dialogues in my mind before I write and draw. And once I start drawing/writing it’s all at the same time.

Q11. Both your works have been in monochrome. Why so? Also, would you like to continue in the same vein or add colour in future?

Well, one reason is I feel I have more control when I use black and white. Also, it is more cost effective for the publisher. I do not see my self using a full colour palatte even in the future. It would at best be 3 colours.

Q12. Any major influences? Which is your favourite graphic novel?

Well inspiration maybe. Influence would mean I would have to be insanely talented to integrate certain art styles in my work. I don’t believe I fall in that category. I love the work of Comes (Belgian/Dutch graphic comic artist), I adore the illustrations of Sukumar Ray. I don’t have one particular favourite book, but the one’s that come to mind right now – Stilte (Dutch), Persopolis, Maus.

Q13. How do you think you have evolved from your first graphic novel to this one?

Well, I always seem to have a problem knitting the middle part of a story, I think I am getting a little better with that. But maybe the reader will know better.

Q14. What is your next project?

Like I said before, books happen to me. So when the next story decides to appear I will start engaging with it. Right now there are just glimpses of it, so there is not much to say there.

You can buy the book here -

                                  Literary gifts for all -

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