Playing ‘badminton with society’: Sarnath Banerjee and Mohammad Hanif
The evening was a free for all, which was a cute throwback to the kind of sixties we never experienced. It had the vibes of a professional adult’s revolution (which we so sorely need) and it was brought to us in an idealistically intimate and honest way.
A friend of Sarnath Banerjee threw open the doors of discussion at T2F in Karachi, through a cherished memory of how he first got to know him, first as an artist and then as a friend. This was done without any ‘rhyme or reason’ on Banerjee’s part but it seemed like an originally objective and personalized introduction.
Mohammad Hanif was the man who guided us through the life and works of the Indian graphic novelist, film maker and someone who plays a great role in the realization of Phantomville, a comics publishing house. The combination of Mohammad Hanif and Banerjee was an idyllic algorithm as the dialogue between the pair of them was as humorous as it was insightful.
The audience was shown 1943 which began in a way somewhat reminiscent to how American: A Bill Hicks Story starts off. Regardless, the short animated film is at all times reflecting in on itself, it is speculative about the self and portrays doubt and humor through its characters to demonstrate how it is slightly self depreciating. Not that the Banerjee’s cartoons don’t boast superior morals, like any good story. In Sophistication is Fragile he animates the story of the Moorish Empire. The tone is at once cynical and sympathetic with their plight of not being able to resist the arts and sciences and neglecting an important (if unevolved) area of empire building; defense.
When questioned on his relationship with Karachi (this was a loaded question as his wife is Pakistani and even in 2012, we think this is an event), he confessed how he came here on a peace mission. That the winters, the architecture, the light and the covert mission of love are what attracted him to this city. He explained, however, that cities ‘don’t really exist’ and they are basically what your perception of them is. His perception of Karachi was that it ‘mirrored’ Kolkata.
His insight went deeper into the project he did in the spirit of the Olympics. Celebrating not the winners or the ‘serious losers’ but the people who almost made it. The posters were designed to explain how one has to ‘have a way to lose’ and give oneself a subconscious reason to not succeed fully. The evening came to a close and the audience was allowed to investigate more about a character that in Pakistan is a novelty. He is an amalgamation of quirky pop cultural references; this is evident in his comics as well. His description of a cartoonist has inflections of Bakhtin, when he suggested that humour is a dangerous thing. One can trivialise authority so easily by laughing at them. This casual observation reflects quite accurately at the state of the relationship between media and politics everywhere, really.
In reference to the recent short-lived ban on motorcycles in Karachi, he claims that the more bizarre an idea, the more ridiculous the request, the higher his sympathy. It’s comforting to see that across the border, no matter what our alleged differences, they have learnt to laugh at the same things as us.