To woo Gen Z readers, designers team up to turn Satyajit Ray’s scary story ‘Khagam’ into graphic novel

11:24 AM Jul 09, 2023 | PTI |

One of Satyajit Ray’s ”scarier” short stories, ‘Khagam’, has come out in a graphic novel format in English, to cater to Gen Z readers.


‘Khagam’, which tells the scary tale of an arrogant man gradually turning into a snake, is the first English graphic novel based on one of Ray’s short stories, though more are likely to follow. Ray better known as the movie maestro who put India on the global map, was also a versatile artist-designer and best-selling author.

“Bengali literature boasts of so many wonderful stories. Yet they remain untouched by the young generation because of the fading reading habit. “Khagam in an English graphic novel format is hence an attempt to bridge that gap and introduce Gen Z readers to Ray’s masterpieces,” said Shamik Chatterjee of design collective Grinning Tree, the man behind the initiative.

The story was first published in Bengali magazine Sandesh in 1972 and the Bengali graphic novel of it was published in January this year. Using a pure Indian style of illustrations with a surreal colour palette, the hard-bound English version was published recently.

Though the detective Feluda or scientist-adventurer Prof Shanku series are better-known works of Ray, his short stories are also equally popular. Chatterjee, who considers the graphic novel to be a It is a labour of love, said that after hitting roadblocks in publishing it with established publishers, decided to take the plunge into the publishing world with the graphic novel.


“We have the rights to create Bengali and English graphic novels of 10 short stories of Satyajit Ray. Our next project is Mr Sasmal-er Sesh Ratri (The last night of Mr Sasmal). We plan to launch it before this year’s Durga Puja. ‘Lucknow-er Duel’ (The Duel in Lucknow) will come thereafter,” he told PTI.

The art followed in telling the eerie story of ‘Khagam’ also needed to be creepy.

“The story is set in Bharatpur in Rajasthan which is a dry area and most of the incidents take place at night. So, we used a pastel tone, not bright primary colours. It was done also for the look and feel of a dark story,” said Subhabrata Bose, who was in charge of illustration.

Ray’s story has descriptions of two of the three main characters. As the protagonist himself is telling the story in first person, there is no way to know how he looks like.

“So, while visualising the protagonist, we kept in mind the features of actor Barun Chanda as seen in the Ray film Seemabaddha (Limited Company) which was released in 1971,” Bose said.

But how difficult it was to translate a work of a colossus like Satyajit Ray? “It was one of my favourite short stories of Satyajit Ray. Converting ‘Khagam’ into an English graphic novel was a difficult job. But as the Bengali version was already out, it became less difficult for me,” said Chandreyee Chatterjee who translated the story for the English version.

The most difficult piece was the four-line poem, which is an integral part of the story, she said.

“It cannot be translated literally. Yet, you have to keep the nuances intact. I am extremely happy that that portion was approved by Sandip Ray (son of Satyajit),” said Chatterjee.

She said the motivation for this work for her was that the next generation of Bengali children, particularly those living abroad, would be able to read this great short story of Ray.


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