Rogan Gosh is designed to be as incomprehensible to the reader as the original dish must have been for Milligan and McCarthy. The name comes from rogan josh, a spicy Indian curry dish, rich in chillies and dangerously red in appearance.
As Grant Morrison says, Rogan Gosh was a product of the new psychedelic period of the nineties. The focus turning from outer concerns to inner ones, along with the presence in many of the artist’s lives of the new psychedelic drugs.
It was also supposed to be inspired by the Amar Chitra Katha tradition of story telling. This was the reason I decided to take a look at it. The cover was a weird blue half-god, half-acidhead, with an assortment of images that assaulted my good sense.
But I decided to be forgiving and carried on. The first page of the comic convinced me that I will not only read this but also love it, no matter how much of a hallucinogenic trip it might be. McCarthy had reprocessed the lush, painted look of the Amar Chitra Katha comic books from India and also imbued them with a sort of deranged other-worldliness that was impossible to resist.
That tanned man with the mustache you see in the crowd is Rudyard Kipling himself, one of the possible contenders for the lead character in this book, where dream-world meets reality, shakes hands and sleep together.
Rudyard Kipling goes into a drug-house in search for truth after some serious accident involving his servant and then lapses into a euphoric dream in which he dreams of two characters who are pre-incarnations of a future “Karmanaut” called Rogan Gosh. And then the whole of the psychedelic adventures unfold.
That or the whole thing is a dream by a rejected lover who drinks and cuts his wrist and hallucinates ever closer to death.
Or, it might all be real and Rudyard Kipling might really have been a form that Soma Swami, the ultimate villain who tries to keep us all veiled in Maya, took to trick Rogan Gosh into destroying himself and he pre-incarnated as the two characters and all their adventures are real.
The text too flows between several narrative voices, including Rudyard Kipling and an unnamed dying youth representing the voice of bleak rational existentialism in the face of the uninflected void. Blending their stories like the spices of the Curry that inspired them, they dress it up and serve it forth for your dining pleasure.
Got all that? Now remove all the “Or”s and replace them with “And”s. Yup. Rogan Gosh is supposed to be an experimental story where it is not a Either/Or world but a world were dreams and reality are all happening at the same time, one inside the other, creating each other.
The concept is good and the presentation is mind-blowing. But, I wish they had given it the definition it deserved instead of making this such a free-flowing story with no ends or resolutions and absolutely no structure. The art work seemed slovenly at times and completely random at other times.
Don’t worry about all the plot details I covered here, they were not even half of the possibilities and they were not spoilers. You can’t really spoil a good curry.
PS. Today might be a good day to appreciate Rogan Gosh, especially if you too look like that cover after your Holi celebrations. Happy Holi!
- Comic-con 2012: the First Serious Step (incgames.wordpress.com)
- British takeaway curry in San Francisco? (ask.metafilter.com)
- Curry. Are we doing it justice? (thefatoftheland.wordpress.com)
- Bombay Grille Restaurant,daytona Beach. Part 2/3 (notecook.com)
- Graphic Novel Review: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, Adapted by Dan Johnson, Illustrated by Amit Tayal (blogcritics.org)