• Ideas
  • Apr 12, 2011

Flipping Through The Harappa Files

Illustration from SARNATH BANERJEE’s The Harappa Files (2011).

The title of Sarnath Banerjee’s new graphic novel invokes the famously planned, ancient city of Harappa, the probable precursor to the Indian civilization to mock the haphazard sprawl that typifies major Indian cities today. His first two graphic novels, Corridor (2005) and The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers (2007), were by turn glib and wise expositions of urbanity as a function of the human tick for accumulation. They were the work of a postmodern, literary poseur who delighted in mixing high culture and low culture, weaving together cameos by Jean Baudrillard, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Walter Benjamin, with appearances by Hindi cinema’s famous vamps, effete male leads, quack sexologists and time-travelling monks. This cannibalization of philosophy and pop culture made Banerjee’s pastiches at once intelligent and clever, trendy and off-beat, dense and light, highfalutin and populist. Ultimately it reveals Banerjee’s own intellectual aspiration for a universal, chic cosmopolitanism that he shares with the middle class.