Despite the rain and the traffic, the first day of Dhaka Lit Fest had a pretty decent turnout, as people turned up in droves, armed with umbrellas and tote bags to partake in all that the festival had to offer. Once such panel titled Mujib: Taking history to the next generation
, took us behind the scenes to the making of history.
For those not in the know, Mujib
a graphic novel in 12 planned parts, published by the Centre for Research and Information, based on Unfinished Memories
the autobiography of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The DLF panel featured the series publisher Radwan Mujib Siddiq, Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy, Granta Magazine’s online editor Luke Neima, and Arzoo Ismail, lecturer, ULAB, and award-winning author Jerry Pinto, in a lively discussion on the journey from the novel to its graphic form, and the making of a superhero out of a national icon.
As the man tasked with the monumental responsibility of rendering Bangabandhu in his 2D avatar, Tanmoy talked about the inspiration behind the project. “I have always wanted to work on a superhero Bangladeshis could identify with, and at one point, I realised, we already had one. Who would be a more fitting superhero than our very own national icon, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman?” When Shibu Kumar Shill approached him from the CRI, with the proposal of adapting Unfinished Memories
, it was the perfect union of like minds.
The meeting of two parties with a common goal was the easiest step, and Luke Neima’s thoughts on the challenges of taking such a widely recognised and scrutinised figure as a subject provided the perfect segue into the conversation about the creation and reception of the Mujib series.
Listening to Radwan Mujib Siddiq talk about getting approval from his mother (Sheikh Rehana) and aunt (Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina) to go ahead with the graphic novel project, and Tanmoy’s endless research of archive photos and other references to get the likeness right, and also decide on the right style for the art – and the mixed initial reception of the project, one could appreciate the hurdles that were crossed, the challenges that were overcome in order to bring the project to partial fruition (3 out of the proposed 12 parts have been published). There were some light-hearted moments too, as Tanmoy recounted the furore that broke out over the depiction of features on Bangabandhu’s face, and the outrage over seemingly minor details, while Radwan recalled the only firm objection that his aunt and mother had to the artwork was about how the hairstyle of their late grandfather was depicted.
Moving on from the inception and reception, the focus shifted to possible applications of the comics. Arzoo Ismail talked about the possibilities of using them as a teaching aid for students learning Bangladesh history, and a lot of the audience questions pointed to the need for greater accessibility for the series amongst young learners from various backgrounds.
Jerry Pinto brought closure to this lively and interactive panel, calling for greater collaboration between East and West Bengal for such projects of historical and educational value.