As I walk into his office and sit down across from him, a multitude of scattered images- humans, animals, comic book characters- greet me from the top of the desk. Looking through a pair of twinkling glasses, he shrugs when I ask him why he chose this profession. “I was always a fan of illustrations, especially the high-end ones of American comic books. I started to draw during my college years, mainly as a past-time activity, but quickly grew fond of it and realized Charukola might be a good future option. I didn't really think of it as a profession when I started out but wanted to see how far I could push the limits of illustration, and maybe find out why Bangladesh is lagging behind.”
When asked why Bangladesh seemed to be underdeveloped in this sector, he cited on the lack of inspired and stylistic artists. “We have a few prominent illustrators, like Shishir sir, with thousands of followers each. This means, stylistically, we're not branching out or being creative, and that's a major drawback in a sector such as this one, which requires constant experimentation."
But in a country where parents still believe career options are limited to 'doctor-engineer', how does someone decide to be an illustrator?
He smiles when I ask this, and says that there are no struggles when you keep the goal in mind. “Everyone has obstacles that they need to overcome, but what matters is that they achieve what they desire. Yes, it is difficult to be a free-lance artist in a country that is still suffering from a post-colonial hangover. The country still believes hard labour under a corporation is the only way to move forward. But I survived, and I know plenty of others who did too. Now, when I get the perfect image after days of working at the table, or when I stumble upon a new design that I did not anticipate, there's a pure sense of satisfaction from this work that is truly worth the effort.”
Since most of his work centers around children, a bit of their magic rubs off on him, too. He has always been fascinated with the quiet mystery in a child's play, which is why he incorporates that mystery into his drawings. And indeed, his work speaks of imaginative strokes, delightful little details and loads of fun.
He believes that a great deal of sacrifice has to be made for the industry to flourish as well. “The Japanese spent millions of dollars and a lot of time and effort perfecting animes. FDC has an entire floor on animation, a floor that is completely unutilized. The outcome of which is that we have very little to show for our animation other than Meena cartoon.”
He sees a bright future for illustrations in Bangladesh. “The young generation is bombarded with images every day, unlike their parents and grandparents. They also have a lot of potential and a great deal of enthusiasm, and probably most importantly of all- they have the internet. They can easily access notes, lessons and examples of inspiring illustrators such as Gustav Dore and Honore Daumier- this is something that they'll find for themselves, something no one needs to tell them.”
For himself, he sees more comic book and adult illustrations in the future and perhaps a return to fine art as well.
As a parting word of advice, he reminds young artists to keep scribbling. “When we start of drawing, the corners of every piece of paper we ever own are filled with little scribbles and characters- little stories that we breathe life into. Someone who wants to be an illustrator should aim to scribble on till the end of their days.”