Regarded as one of the foremost graphic novelists in India, Sarnath Banerjee is an artist and illustrator who has been instrumental to the popularity of the graphic novel form in the country. His novels feature a combination of black-and-white ink drawings, photographic images drawn from popular media and a combination of English and Indian languages to comment on urbanisation and life in India.
Banerjee was born and raised in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and studied biochemistry from the University of Delhi followed by a Master’s in Communication from Goldsmiths, University of London. In 1999, after receiving a MacArthur Foundation grant, he began working on his first novel, Corridor. The book made a mark as the first mainstream graphic novel in India upon its publication in 2004. Centred around a secondhand bookstore and its owner in Connaught Place, New Delhi, the narrative explores the peculiarities of the city through various characters.
In his second novel, The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers (2007), Banerjee experimented with historical fiction. In 2011, he published the Harappa Files, in which he explored a different format from the single narrative form of his earlier novels, anthologising works that he exhibited over a period of three years. His 2015 novel, All Quiet in Vikaspuri, is also based in New Delhi and follows a plumber’s search for the mythical Saraswati river in a bid to solve the water crisis of the city. His fifth novel, Doab Dil (2019), combines fiction and non-fiction to record observations and biographical anecdotes about historical figures as well as fictional characters.
Bannerjee has also produced work for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2014), the Pune Biennale (2017) and the 2012 London Olympics, for which he created a series of billboards under the title Gallery of Losers. He also co-founded a comic book publishing imprint called Phantomville with writer Anindya Roy, which closed in 2008 owing to financial difficulties.
At the time of writing, Banerjee lives and works in Berlin.
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