It is a common man’s interpretation of centuries-old Indian art, intended to transform historic artefacts into characters in comic strips. When cartoonist Sharad Sharma of World Comics contemplated on a comics book workshop around one of the most extensive and critically acclaimed exhibitions at the National Museum, “The Body in Indian Art”, he knew it would be a challenge. “There are so many stereotypes with relation to the body in Indian culture, look at the saffron brigade, and then we have these amazing sculptures; Khajuraho is famous world over,” says Sharma.
A week into the exhibition, the comics workshop was planned. Group of around 15 — including art students, an academic researcher and a medical professional — gathered at the Museum to present their perspective on the the exhibition.
While Sharma shared technical expertise on the art of creating a comic strip, the amateur artists (mostly from the Capital) were free to choose an aspect of the exhibition that interested them the most. “The outcome was amazing. Everyone had a different take, some humorous, others insightful,” says Sharma. A fortnight later, the group reassembled to share their art. Their work will be put together in a comic that will shortly be on display at the museum.
Among Sharma’s favourite is Kavita Nambissan Ganguli’s interpretation of sculptures depicting demons. “According to her, these were created by an artist who was constantly criticised. He decided to take out the frustration and bring out the evil that he saw on the faces of those nagging him, in his work,” says Sharma. Another artist, Shikhant Sablania, found humour in a 5th century sculpture with two genitals. “He made up a story where a sage with a huge appetite was blessed with them to be able to urinate,” says Sharma.
The changing preference of body type, from voluptuous to thin, has been documented by Katherine, who has the “God of Wealth” transform accordingly over the years. The Master himself, Sharma, meanwhile has created a comic based on 13th-century Sati memorial stones that are part of the exhibition. “I am from Rajasthan and this social evil is a major concern there,” says Sharma. With a similar workshop planned later this month, he says that the encouraging response might lead to regular such artistic adventurous at the Museum. “We might actually make the comic workshops interpreting the collection a regular feature,” he says.