After passing the patio area and the 400 sq ft main café that serves pre-made tuna, chicken and veg-n-cheese sandwiches, white mint tea, masala chai, fish chops and mutton cutlets, a black spiral stairwell leads to the library in the basement.
For Rs. 30 per hour, you can sip on Coorg coffee as you curl up to read comic classics such as Tintin, Asterix, Calvin and Hobbes, as well as the Marvel Comics’ superhero series. Sit on the floor mat or take one of the seven comfortable seats, tucked in between the bookracks.
“We only allow drinks downstairs. Food is a big no,” says co-owner Bidihsha Basu, who runs the café with husband Utsa Shome, and Delhi-based friend Koel Chatterjee. Indeed, bright red posters warn customers: ‘Damage our books, we’ll damage your wallets.’
The couple first started Leaping Windows in 2010, as a home delivery rental service for comics and graphic novels. However, opening a library-cum-café was always on the cards especially after Basu, who taught English in Japan for two years, witnessed the popularity of Manga cafés there.
The idea is to rekindle the habit of reading amongst both children and adults. “There is no place in the city to chill and read comics. We want to change that,” says Basu.
— Humaira Ansari
The pen is funnier than the sword, says the website of Algerian cartoonist Khalil Bendib, an unusual and somewhat controversial figure amongst the ranks of political cartoonists.
Based in Berkeley, California, Bendib put the Internet to good use in disseminating his viciously funny political cartoons, and by 2007, had published the book Mission Accomplished, which contains a collection of his caricatures.
Several of his works deal with the Middle-East — he hosts a radio talk show called Voices of the Middle East and North Africa — and his cartoons are, to put it lightly, critical of Israel.
One depicts a ventriloquist in a pin-stripe suit (with Israel Lobby written on the fork of his pants) holding puppets that are named McCain, Obama and Hillary Clinton (with only the ‘Hill’ visible, but the reference is obvious). He sits atop piles of donations, and a Star of David is visible on the front of his shirt.
Another is a poster for a ‘movie’ – named Cannibal, starring former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon. The tagline: coming to a refugee camp near you. Blurb: “Best performance since Sabra and Shatilla.’
The pen might not be funny, but it seems to be using vitriol instead of ink. You can see several more of the same on Bendib’s website.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee is hardly the first to be targeted by political cartoons, and neither will she be the last.
Bendib has largely been left free to grind his axe despite his obviously provocative work. Perhaps there is a lesson in that.
— Karthik Balasubramanian
A question of ethics
Four and a half decades ago, Arjun Sajnani was studying English literature at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, United States, when he watched a production of Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons. The quality of the production wasn’t particularly impressive, but the powerful script was what blew his mind. “I was already very interested in theatre by then and in my head, I decided that I would direct this play one day,” says Sajnani.
In January this year, the Bangalore-based theatre artiste, who is also a well-known restaurateur, fulfilled that dream by producing his own version of A Man For All Seasons and performing it there. The play came to Mumbai for the first time yesterday and will be staged over the weekend as well. Comprising a cast of Bangalore theatre scene regulars like Ashok Mandanna, Aporup Acharya, Veena Sajnani and Vivek Madan, the play, about morality and corruption in 16th century England, is based on Bolt’s play, which also inspired the Oscar-winning film of the same name starring Paul Scofield and Robert Shaw.
Set in Tudor England, it takes a look at the conflict between Sir Thomas More, the Chancellor of England, and King Henry VIII. More is opposed to the amoral ruler’s wish to divorce his ageing wife, Catherine of Aragon, in order to marry Anne Boleyn, the sister of his former mistress, for the sake of having her produce him an heir. “The play takes a look at morality, ethics, corruption and the unbridled use of power in politics,” says Sajnani.
No expense has been spared in making sure this production is top-notch, with Sajnani revealing that the entire budget is “close to Rs. 18 lakhs”. Genuine Tudor-era costumes were ordered from England, United States and Thailand. “Authenticity never comes cheap,” he says.
— Suprateek Chatterjee
A question of ethics