A character based on a famous litterateur of Assam, Munin Barkotoki, serves as the background of a mystery graphic novel, 'The Real Mr Barkotokoi', released at the ongoing Northeast Book Fair.
Assamese artist-writer Shisir Basumatari said that after dabbling with the idea of making a movie and then a biography, eventually he felt that a graphic novel would be an appropriate medium to tell a complex story.
"Munin Barkotoki had a terrible handwriting and it was the scattered information, which I could decipher from his handwritten diaries that got me hooked into the project," Basumatari, who also works with body painting and photography, said.
He hoped the book finds acceptance despite its unusual yet entertaining form.
The book published by 'Speaking Tiger' is a project undertaken with Munin Barkotoki Memorial Trust.
Meenaxi Barkotoki, managing trustee, Munin Barkotoki Memorial Trust, said that she hoped that this "very special book" will get the attention of the readers.
"My father would have been very proud of this beautiful book and especially thrilled that his terrible handwriting was what got the ball rolling," she said.
Eminent writer Arup Kumar Dutta, who released the book, said it is ironic that 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.
"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 the book belongs to the noir genre (and) if one looks at the novel, it is totally 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 is an unseen almost latent whimsicality and humour in the way he has drawn the figures. The draftsmanship is excellent," he said.
The book is about a young man who is troubled by recurring dreams of visiting the mysterious Munin Barkotoki, a God-fearing man.
Later, at a scrap dealers shop, when he accidentally unearths a book by the very same person, he is shocked and intrigued as the man of his dreams happens to be very real, albeit deceased, and a famous Assamese writer and critic.
Determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, the young man teams up with his friend, Capt D and Dr Das, a psychologist, to piece together the identity of this reclusive, enigmatic figure.
Through his hypnosis sessions with Dr. Das, and rifling through Barkotokis diaries and speeches, he attempts to decipher one of the "brightest lights" of Assamese literature.
He uncovers inspiring details from the young Barkotokis formative years, such as his fearless literary activism during British rule.
Basumatari also discovers Barkotokis quirks, like his famous walk to the District Library in Guwahati at exactly the same time every day, and his bad handwriting, which editors and readers had a hard time in deciphering.
And yet, each step that the young man takes, leads to a dead end, leaving him with no choice but to undertake a journey across time and space, with ghostly magistrates and flying cars.