THE CONTRACTOR & THE ENGINEER: SHIFT TO THE “BETTER” FOR ARTIST WRITER ANIL CS RAO’S WORK?


In December 2011, Anil CS Rao traveled with his wife, toddler twins, and his brother-in-law to attend the first India Comic Com held at the Dilli Haat venue in New Delhi – traveling from his wife’s rural residence in AP State via overnight train. At the conclusion – two articles appeared in the press about his work presented at the venue: three of his books presented at the venue were included in FHM (India) Magazine’s Top 12 Comic Books of 2012, and another in a not-so-favorable mention in a column by a local Delhi based “movie critic.”

The original 2011 venue at Dilli Hatt has long passed – and Rao claims he is presently undergoing a “paradigm shift” regarding his artwork for his current work-in-progress – which to the sarcastic disbelief of a local Delhi journalist in 2011 – who, in actuality, is a specialist in the Hindi B Musicals of yore – is created completely via computer using a 3D program and a mouse – and thus Rao claims this “paradigm shift” applies not only to his writing – for which he deliberates on its significance several times before finalizing the with dialogue balloons in congruence with his artwork.

The narrative is concerned with a 20 some Indian engineer living and working in Manhattan in 1991 – who travels to his native Vizag, India, purportedly on a “holiday to visit family” and returns a few weeks later to New York’s Manhattan, a married man. But the settings and scenes are unique for a graphic novel with primarily Indian characters – and in the case of the protagonist Anand Rao, they exist simultaneously in both Indian and Western cultural contexts.

Roopa, the young woman, agrees to wed Anand only upon Anand’s signing of a prenuptial agreement that would allow either party to annul the marriage at any time in the future with no explanations or legalities required. Roopa’s intentions are unclear from the onset – perhaps not even to herself. On the one hand – she is cognizant of the Seven Vows taken during the Saptapadi ritual during the actual wedding ceremony – staged in a temple formerly owned and later abandoned by her late father – but after settling with Anand in Manhattan in 1991 – her moral integrity begins to lapse as she becomes romantically involved with a fellow student from Mumbai. At this time, she is in the last semester of an MFA in Photography. The overall narrative is very standard with respect to the plot: a man brings a wife from India, wife ultimately leaves for another – in this case, a fellow Indian student at Pratt Institute’s BFA program three years her junior.

So what “change for the better” – what “paradigm shift” is Rao referring to? He claims he is not referring to his plot – but to the context of the events that comprise the narrative and the settings in which these events occur. The artwork is also relatively more refined than his prior works – with better expertise that has come over the years since his original works were produced.

The current work in progress, THE CONTRACTOR & THE ENGINEER, is projected to be much longer than his earlier works at around 175 pages or more. Rao is planning to release the final Telugu and English versions in June 2023 on Amazon Kindle USA & India at the cost of ($2.00) and will launch the English and Telugu print versions at an upcoming 2023/2025 Hyderabad Comic Con held bi-annually in Hyderabad’s Hi-Tech City.

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