In the 1980s, the children’s magazine Anandamela briefly transformed into a diminutive digest-sized publication. The new outfit also flaunted a brilliant new arching masthead, drawn by Satyajit Ray, and the whole publication became a more colorful affair. The contents of the magazine too became more diverse, with more puzzles & games included within the folds along with several serialized comic adventures – both global syndicated franchises and originals. A homemade original series, Sadashib, illustrated by Bimal Das, was the most remarkable of these. Filmmaker Tarun Majumdar had adapted the story for the graphic format (from a novel by Saradindu Bandhyopadhyay), while Bimal Das meticulously drew & colored frame after frame: on an average, eight painstakingly painted frames per issue.
Frames from Sadashib; illustrated by Bimal Das
One of the major attractions of Anandamela in the 1980s and 1990’s was the high standard of its illustrations. The house of ABP boasted of a bevy of brilliant draftsmen: Bimal Das, Samir Sarkar, Subrato Choudhury, Debasish Deb, Krishnendu Chaki, Subrato Gangopadhyay, Anup Roy & Prabir Sen, to name those who immediately spring to mind.
Bimal Das, because of his inimitable style & technique, stood out. In fact, in the history of Bengali illustration, Bimal Das turns a unique figure whose style & vision bore no clear precedence in Bengal, and the relentless reach of his skill is unlikely to be emulated.
As a ‘commercial artist’ in Bengal, he had to function simultaneously as an illustrator, a cartoonist, a portraitist, a designer, and even as a lettering & layout artist: his works ranged from naturalistic watercolors to highly stylized, even decorative, artwork for various publications.
My favorites are his intricate pen & ink drawings for some of the children’s books, where the richness of little details creates a mood that is often reminiscent of the scribbled denseness of a John Tenniel’s, but with the graphic clarity of Winsor McCay:
Illustrations by Bimal Das.
As we turn a decade since Bimal Das passed away in 27th July, 2002, there is still a generation who fondly remember his work, especially his Sadashib. To those who wonder why such a singular work isn’t being collected & published as a comic book: rumor has it that a fire in the ABP office destroyed the original artworks, making it unlikely that they will ever be able to publish it again. The surviving prints are of inferior quality; that they were all small & digest-sized doesn’t help either.
Links & Acknowledgments:
1. I thank Sri Sougata Purkayastha for the images of Sadashib.
2. Boi Ar Comics: an excellent resource of old Bengali comics & children’s magazines.
3. For more works by Bimal Das, do visit the artist’s Facebook Page.