Avik Mukhopadhayay

Arts Practice

Grant Period: Over one year and six months

Avik’s project ‘Lubdhak – The Dog Star’ is based on a novel by the same name by noted Bengali writer Nabarun Bhattacharya. Bhattacharya is known for his vitriolic critique of the Bhadralok culture of Bengal and his deep empathy for the disenfranchised and oppressed, owing to his strong leftist ideology. Mostly ignored by the mainstream in his early years he became the cult figure of anti-establishment towards the end of his life. For the younger generation that grew up reading his maverick works, he provides the worldview and the language to both critique and stand apart from the mainstream. Lubdhak is the Bengali name for the Dog Star, Canis Majoris. Even among Nabarun’s celebrated works, Lubdhak is not considered a canonical one. It doesn’t involve his signature creation Fyatarus, the low life inhabitants of the society who can fly and sabotage the fabric of a beautified self-praising society. Nor does it directly portray his anarchist renditions. On the surface, it talks about the dogs of Kolkata, signalling the writer’s love for such creatures. However, on a deeper reading, it is apparent that the story is about the ability of the oppressed to organise and finally reject the oppressor, rendering them powerless. As per the narrative, in a dystopic setting of Kolkata, the civic administration decides to exterminate all the dogs of the city and discusses various methods of annihilation to find the most safe and efficient one. As the operation begins, the powerless dogs are hunted and slowly disappear. However, as the narrative develops, some of them escape the killers and struggle to  find a way to exist. Slowly they realise the need to organise. They are being instructed by Lubdhak, the Dog Star. As the hunted dogs organise and leave the city in an act of rejecting the human civilization a great silence descends on the city.

It is interesting to note that IFA had supported a film, ‘Nabarun’ by filmmaker Kaushik Mukherjee aka Q last year under this programme, which was based on Nabarun Bhattacharya’s life and works. Filmmaker and theatre director Suman Mukhopadhyay has also made films and plays based on his work in recent years. Madhuja made a graphic novel version of one of those films while Avik was the cinematographer for the same. Other theatre directors are also adapting his works into plays. The External Evaluator for the project suggests this project should be supported ‘because Nabarun Bhattacharya’s legacy needs widespread recognition’ and thinks it ‘is exactly the kind of parable we need at this time’.  For this project, Avik has been making technological innovations turning his home into a studio set. As they want to depart from the realist depiction of the novel, they are experimenting with stop motion animation. With the help of some artists they are making models of the dogs and the various settings to be used in the film. They have also adopted some dogs who will provide the blueprint for the behaviour of the various dogs that will be depicted in the story.

This project is supported under the Arts Practice as it provides a critique of the standard notions of animation films in India while keeping in line with Nabarun’s ideology. The feature length film will definitely need more funding than IFA can provide. The outcome of this project will be a graphic novel together with an electronic version of it, which will work as the script for the final film. They will also create a prototype stop motion animation film to test the limits of their technological innovations. Given their long association with Nabarun Bhattacharya and their dedication to experimental forms, the outcome of this project should be promising.

This project received a grant under the Arts Practice programme of India Foundation for the Arts, with support from Technicolor India.