KOCHI: When Tejas Modak encouraged children around him to come out with their own superhero, he proposed a condition- the character should have twin identities, in secret and public. That aroused curiosity in the participants.The Pune-based graphic novelist was in Kochi, guiding young talents on the art that has given him fame over the past decade.
Titled ‘Me Super Hero — Comic and Graphic Storytelling’, a one-day workshop at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is part of the ABC (Art By Children) programme running parallel to the 108-day festival that began on December 12.At Fort Kochi’s Cabral Yard the other day, Modak was busy giving wings of imagination to a group of school children from the locality. When it came to charting a superhero, the 35-year-old also reminded the students about the costume and mission of the character.
“For the workshop, we are weaving three main areas: Words, images and stories,” reveals Modak, renowned for his 2008 graphic novel ‘Private-eye Anonymous: The Art Gallery Case’. “The subject I have in mind is a ‘superhero’. Participants can identify the superpower they would like to possess and create a graphic narrative around it,” he continued.
And what would be Modak’s superpower? “My superhero would be one who can speak the languages of all people and animals,” he shrugs with a smile. Modak likes to be called a storyteller. “My pursuit in life is to tell stories through words and pictures that will entertain, enthral and inspire people for a long time. Not out of an abstracted sense of immortality but simply out of an urge to have a lot of fun while I’m here. That is what I’d always like to share with the participants at any workshop,” says the artist.
So, how are graphic novels distinct in the field of art and literature? “In several respects,” says Modak, whose second work, ‘Animal Palette’, was showcased at the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2012. “In a graphic novel, part of the story is expressed through text, the rest is expressed visually,” he points out. “That helps the reader, especially kids, familiarise with the ambience of the story stronger and faster.”
ABC director Blaise Joseph notes that the basic idea of the programme by the Kochi Biennale Foundation is to kindle artistic talents in the new generation. “We want to make them think about issues that are important to them and society,” he says. “We groom them on ways they would like to address it.”
At the ongoing ABC workshop at the ‘art room’, Modak has a storyboard created on the characters. He first created two superheroes: Barangate Man and Mintu.
With distinctive powers like magical spectacles, wand, magical watch and mind-reading ability, they help the people in need and make the world a better place to live, he explains to the attendees.
Student Mohd Afreed P Salim created a wrestler who helps the people and trains them in self-defence.
“My superhero helps people fight against bullying,” says the Class IX student at Haji Essa Haji Mussa Memorial School in nearby Mattancherry. His friend Zameen Ul Hak plans to create a character who works to check global warming.
“My character helps avoid disasters like floods, like the one we had in Kerala five months ago,” he says. “He will educate people about conserving natural resources.” Modak also gave a talk on his graphic novels. The hour-long lecture was held at the Biennale Pavilion.