Vinayak Varma, whose fartwork adorns Phiss Phuss Boom: Stories Our Grandparents Told Us, in conversation with Vivek Gopal, who is bald, single and farts frequently.
VG: You’ve lovingly illustrated a book revolving around farts. Did anything in life ever prepare you for this?
VV: All of it, I’d say. It feels as though every event in my life, no matter how significant it seemed at the time, has really been a minor tile on my path to this singular artistic achievement. In fact, the moment I started drawing farts for Phiss Phuss Boom was the moment I began believing in Destiny. I might as well stop working and go live in the mountains now, because nothing else I draw can possibly approach the glory of what I’ve done for this book.
VG: The picture on page 19 (Jijimon gorging himself) has a very faltulent-Dali style to it. Did you have to stage this? Were models involved? Were beans involved?
VV: Albert Einstein, the great hair expert of the ’50s, once attended a dinner party at the Dali home, and it was there that he famously declared, “the persistence of hunger and the persistence of time are in inverse proportion. I’ve had enough, I tell you.” He then went on to say, “Please remove these enchiladas from my field of vision, friend Sal, unless you’d like my stomach to live demo the metric expansion of space.” This has been my central guiding principle in creating the illustration you mentioned. There were no stages, beans or models involved, no.
VG: I observe everything! What happened to the balloons on Shontu Mama’s scooter?
VV: Life. Life happened. In joint action with the Kolkata summer sun.
VG: Were there any scenes that you flat-out refused to illustrate on the grounds of grossness? If no, did you take the authors to task for not being gross enough?
VV: I refuse nothing. Except refuse. I strongly refuse refuse. As for the authors, they don’t seem to understand the meaning of the words ‘gross enough’. This, in my experience, has been their most and least endearing quality.