Gautam Bhatia is an architect. But his first graphic novel, Lie, has nothing to do with architecture. It is instead a satirical look at India. “There are five things that every Indian reacts to in one way or the other—family values, cricket, films, religion and politics. The story encompasses all five of these, with the character of a politician holding the narrative together,” says Bhatia.
(From left) Gautam Bhatia is an architect who is now publishing his first graphic novel; Lie--a traditional look at modern India.
The book, written by Bhatia and coordinated by Orijit Sen, is part of Desh Ki Awaz, a Ford Foundation-sponsored project that seeks to bring together popular art and serious art. Hence, the graphics of the book are drawn by miniature painters from Rajasthan.
“It was quite an experience,” Bhatia says. “These artists were only used to drawing Ram and Sita and here we were asking them to sketch modern stories. The process was quite interesting. For example, we sent them to a multiplex; they had never seen anything like that. They spent three days just watching movies, eating popcorn, etc. And then they put down their impressions of these modern things in their traditional format,” Bhatia says.
There were a lot of artistic differences; in the miniature style, the drawings are on a flat plane so there is no sense of perspective. “We had long arguments where I said things that were farther away should look smaller and they disagreed,” he says.
The final form is a startling look at modern India within the frame of a traditional style of painting. “It’s very easy to write about India, “ Bhatia says, “it takes you beyond your imagination. You write something thinking this is the most bizarre thing that can happen and the next day in the newspapers you read about something that is ten times worse.”
Bhatia has earlier written Punjabi Baroque and Other Memories of Architecture, a book about eyesore architecture, “the ugly, grotesque houses we live in”, with Greater Kailash in New Delhi as the epitome of the worst.