Assamese artist-writer Shisir Basumatari explores the character of the famous literature of Assam, ‘Munin Barkotokoi’. The character serves as the background of a mystery graphic novel, “The Real Mr. Barkotokoi”, released at the ongoing Northeast Book Fair. The book published by ‘Speaking Tiger’ is a project undertaken with Munin Barkotoki Memorial Trust.
Shisir Basumatari was juggling between the idea of making a movie and then a biography. Later, he felt that a graphic novel would be an appropriate medium to tell a complex story. He said, “Munin Barkotoki had terrible handwriting and it was the scattered information, which I could decipher from his handwritten diaries that got me hooked into the project”. Basumatari also works with body painting and photography. He also said that the book finds acceptance despite its unusual yet entertaining form.
The book tells the story about a young man who is troubled by recurring dreams of visiting the mysterious Munin Barkotoki, a God-fearing man.
Meenaxi Barkotoki, managing trustee, Munin Barkotoki Memorial Trust, said that she hoped that this “very special book” will get the attention of the readers. She also added, “My father would have been very proud of this beautiful book and especially thrilled that his terrible handwriting was what got the ball rolling”.
Eminent writer Arup Kumar Dutta, who released the book, said, “ironically, he has spent a lifetime ranting and raving against any kind of work that devalues the written word but I accepted to release the book as I am impressed by the hard work of ten years put in by the writer.” He also added, “As a writer and power of words, I think while words tend to stimulate our creative imagination, visuals tend to stultify that creative imagination. As far as this book is concerned, the most striking aspect of the book is that it is also a work of art and I forgive you for giving so few words and giving so many images”.
He said that the book belongs to the noir genre (and) if one looks at the novel, it is dark, and the atmosphere thus created through his art is of a surreal kind.
“It is less of a graphic novel and more of an art and there are an unseen almost latent whimsicality and humor in the way he has drawn the figures. The draftsmanship is excellent,” he said.