Recently, French author and cartoonist Julien Berjeaut popularly known as Jul was in conversation with award winning graphic designer and illustrator, Pinaki De at the Oxford Bookstore.
Talking about his visit to the city of joy, Jul said on the sidelines of the event , “I had come to the city 27 years ago. I was living in the city in the year 1996. Before I became a cartoonist, I was a Sinologist. I was here to document the story of the Chinese community in Kolkata which obviously is old and interesting. I have a special feelings for Kolkata compared to all the other cities in India because I think it’s quite similar to Paris. There are so many similarities. I was reading an article by renowned author Sandip Roy who had recently visited Paris. He was making all those paradigms – love of Bengalis for books, for strolling around, for being really critical about everything that surround them and this is exactly what would define a Parisian and I am super Parisian and French obviously, but Paris is like my heart of the way I view the world.”
Though he felt,”I think changes in Calcutta have been tremendous. I was having lunch yesterday in the area of Tangra, where I used to live during my documentation project in 1996, because as you know the Chinese people are located there. The area’s skyline rapidly changing with several high-rise buildings and skyscrapers. Many Chinese have left the city for better pastures and their settlements been replaced by factories. So this trip has been both nostalgic and little shocking for me.”
His graphic-novel series “Silex and the City” and “50 Shades of Greeks” are best-selling books, and have been adapted as a daily program in animation for the French-German TV channel Arte. Mixing philosophy and cartoons, his “Planète des Sages” has been translated into 12 languages around the world.
In recent years, caricature in France has hit the headlines because of the irreverent cartoons of Charlie Hebdo and the 2015 terrorist attacks. But caricature has a long and colourful tradition in the country.
Jul shares his thoughts about the cartoon scene in France, “The life of a cartoonist in France is priceless. We are so lucky compared to other parts the world. Belgium and France kind of invented comic books and cartoons almost a century ago and it was such a huge success, read by all categories of population , all generations alike. Like in most of the countries of the world where it is devoted to kids, here adults read cartoons, whether they belong to the working class or the elite, everybody has some kind of comic books at home. This is something really widespread. So it is the reason why economically speaking, the scenario is quite good. There are so many opportunities, more publishing houses and we are seeing a lot of things coming out from comic books such as animation. Social considerations for cartoon is very high here which is quite different from abroad.”
The literary and artistic evening commenced with the opening remarks by Mr. Nicolas Facino, Director of Alliance Française du Bengale, who spoke about the spectacular relationship that has nurtured between the iconic Oxford Bookstore and The Embassy of France / The French Institute in India and the Alliance Française du Bengale over the years through various cultural and literary associations.
Pinaki De steered the conversation with Jul discussing various nuances of graphic designing that captivated the audience. The discussants spoke on editorial cartoons, importance of technology in cartoons and analysed the cultures and influence of cartoons and comics in India vis-a-vis France.
Jul said, “After taking part in multiple conferences at various venues in Kolkata like the iconic Oxford Bookstore, Alliance française du Bengale, I feel extremely content to discover finally that despite the immense differences between India and France regarding the situation and popularity of graphic art, comics, there are a number of similarities as well. I believe people in India is becoming more and more interested to discover this vast territory of comic literature not only through editorial cartoon published in newspaper, but also as a form creation. This industry has an enormous potential to grow in near future in India with proper promotional strategies and given the barrier between the children and the adults is removed concerning the readership.”