Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay’s classic Bengali novel, Chander Pahar is a terrific adventure story that looks at the continent from a spectacular lens. It will amaze and stun the reader in the same vein for its detail and pace. Shankar and his friend Alvarez travel through untamed Africa prior to World War I, as they encounter unexpected challenges, from man and beast, in search of the fabled diamond mines of Richtersveld, the mountain of the moon. US based Indian comic book and graphic novelist Saurav Mohapatra is now retelling the story that he read as a boy in Oriya, to an English audience, with powerful illustrations by Sayan Mukherjee.
Speaking about his experience with this classic, Mohapatra says, “It took nearly a year. The major challenge was that while I could understand Bengali, I can’t read it. So Sayan (illustrator) transliterated the original Bengali dialogue into Roman script and I adapted/translated it from there. Having read it as a kid, I was already aware of the story beats. It was refreshing to work on a title for young minds after my dark and violent stint (Mumbai Confidential).” He adds that the book holds well for modern readers, dubbing it as an Indiana Jones meets King Solomon’s Mines adventure. The writer and illustrator stayed true to the original progression of the story. Since it’s a period piece, the original pacing and setting is intact.
The original classic written by Bandopadhyay caught the eye of Saurav Mohapatra not just for its splendid visualisation but for its graphic detail as well. This, from the Bengali writer who had no access to the Internet, Wikipedia or any other modern information tool. He wrote Chander Pahar based on his research about Africa from books of the time.
Moon Mountain, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, script by Saurav Mohapatra, illustrations by Sayan Mukherjee, Puffin,
Penguin Books, R399.
available At Leading city bookstores and online stores.