How I Created a Software That In-turn Helped Me Creating My Graphic Book

It’s the story of Rangoli , my own custom developed cloud based image editor software that helped in churning-out the print ready images to help in creating a graphic book with specific effects to set the desired nostalgic tone.

If I today look back in time, I find many memories from Rourkela, a small township around India’s first public sector steel plant. Like any other Rourkelite, I have been a true enthusiast about my town. This passion led me to spend some time in last few years to collects smaller yet evocative details of events that shaped the place and the life within it. Then a time came when I gave it a serious thought to give them a shape of a book. Last year I published the book as titled Rourkela – The Illustrated Journey Into The Life Of The City 

As the book was supposed to be a graphic novel, there were multiple challenges I had. The first and foremost of them was getting the images/photograph of the town across different times in history. Being a small town it was really difficult task as not much of the facts and history of the place was recorded from different aspects of life. before the Rourkela Steel Plant was built in 1950’s, the place was least known tribal area with in the dense forest across the hills. Even though a high level details I had collected from secondary research, still the details were not enough to come up with a photographic book with truthful and accurate particulars. The problem with photographs is that they are too real – there is a little room available for imagination when you see a bright sharp hi definition photograph. The less details are in photo including color, there is more to imagine , and no doubt that’s why a painting with less realism is always effective in igniting emotion in viewer than the same subject in photograph.…%2

(FIG: The images in the published book – the line textured engraving effect gives the feeling of vintage nostalgia.)

As the book subject was history of the town with reference to different location within and specially about the town’s inception in 1950’s, and before, I thought it would be great to use illustration type graphics to match the old times, specially 50’s and 60’s of the town. In addition to that the challenge was that as it was a place, about which very less photographs along with recorded information was available, it was difficult to come up with a graphical history of the places through photographs. Secondly due to unavailability of details of life style and location description of the area, (as Rourkela was mostly unknown remote hilly area filled with jungle and aboriginal tribal before the steel plant came up in 50’s just after a few year of India’s Independence ), leaving something to imagination of the readers in images is ideal to evoke certain emotions.

When I started looking for a theme of the graphic book on history of a location, I explored many font types, graphic styles along with sketch patterns. I wanted the book to bring back nostalgia about the past that gone by, to remind the readers of the days gone by which no more exists. So natural tendency was to select vintage designs mostly popular in the periodicals, books and magazines printed using older print approach like wood-cut , linograph and engraves and the kind, when digital print didn’t exist which ever maintain the crispness of our printing methods today and had the printing imperfections. So I selected the wood-cut, old style text and textured background of the background images which help get the reader he feeling of vintage nostalgia.

The next step was to look for options to produce such an effect. After a search I noticed there are some plugins to Photoshop and other similar photo editors which provide the similar effects. But as I am more biased towards open source and used GIMP most of the time for my graphical needs, I wanted a good plugin that would provide the desired effect . There were some yet they didn’t match the exact way I wanted to represent the images. I wanted something to closely match the childhood local magazines that were printed and were more crude looking printouts. So the one of the best choice was to rather develop a program to quickly produce the exact effect I wanted to invoke same feeling. Initially I thought of learning to develop a plugin for GIMP, but that included additional work to learn the new language and the methods to build the plugin. Yet I did not want to depend on simple actions. Also I was not interested in depending on a commercial software and stick to it and was also not sure how long it would take me to learn and there by come-up with the solution that will in turn will help me complete my book project. I was stuck at a cross road, where the other option is to look around and find an approach that would be easier for me to come up with a software solution that will involve less work. I realized, I knew a decent level of PHP and some open source image processing libraries. In my earlier days of my career as a developer, I had played a lot with such libraries which used to run over shell scripts and via PHP through Execs. So Decided to try out this approch and decided will build my own Image Editor application that will allow to upload any image and convert that to the effect I desired. Thus my pet project Rangoli came into being to help me out to finish my graphic book project.

After spending two months over weekends, quickly I managed to build a working version with a feature to convert my images into the desired effect. As I used PHP, I was able to host it locally and use it across different laptops I use at home via the wifi , without the need to install anything on the system I was working with my book project. Later I added a few more variations of the effect and build a template that can be used to add more effects like plugins into ‘Rangoli’. One such addition was to remove either the white or black from the image and make it semi transparent (the same effect you get in Photoshop by turning the blending mode to ‘Multiply’).

(FIG: Rangoli Interface showing the list of effects available and the preview in center pane. Multiple effects can be queued and batch processed.)

Later added the feature to process multiple effects one after another based on the queue — more like a batch process but through the GUI and by following human friendly language than the geek’s favorite commands. These helped me build a system that is scalable and cross platform by the time I finished the book.

(FIG: Rangoli user-interface showing the rendered vector image with transparency, ready to be used in the book.)

Using this then I started creating visuals for my book. I merged multiple public domain images and some photographs I took some time back across the town, to create desired frame which then I processed in Rangoli to generate print ready vector that with old engraved vintage type image.

(FIG: From Left to right, different stages the source images were merged and then fed into Rangoli to get the old print type shown in right.)

The one more good thing happened – in my book I was able to provide dramatic scenes from past combining some modern day photographs and processing them through Rangoli.

(FIG: Blurring the realism – Left images are the original ones processed, where are the right one are the finally processed outputs from Rangoli.)

Finally I was able to complete the book that was referred as “Mini India’ Rourkela coming alive through flickers of images”. Though technology helped me in a greater way by empowering me to meet my goal which otherwise would have been impossible for me, I learned a new trick — sometimes, we need to spend time in building components that will help us in long run . In such cases even if the immediate or direct benefit may not be in sight, still they may act as the foundation stone to the bigger thing we desire to achieve.

You can get the book from here:…%2522%25


Rourkela – The Illustrated Journey Into The Life Of The City Around India’s First Public Sector Steel Plant

A new type of history book about a city ..600+ illustrations, 270 pages , about India’s first public sector steel plant and a city around it… legends, facts, figures..about tribals, their life, about the British Raj and post modern Indian scenario..about how the steel industry came up in the remote area and how the city got into Narendra Modi’s smart city list..

A new type of history book about a city ..600+ illustrations, 270 pages , about India's first public sector steel plant and a city around it... legends, facts, figures..about tribals, their life, about the British Raj and post modern Indian scenario..about how the steel industry came up in the remote area and how the city got into Narendra Modi's smart city list..


Completely illustrated narrative about Rourkela, a city that become one of the iconic industrialization urban symbol in post independent India. A remote village of the ‘Roulia’ tribe, surrounded by dense forests and hills amidst India’s one of the mineral rich valleys, got selected by the makers of modern India to host India’s first public holding Steel and Iron company Hindustan Steel Limited. This story is the the journey of becoming one of the founding stones of modern industrialization of India. “History of a less travelled yet one of the cult cities of modern Indian town retold disguised as a compelling and gripping story through pictures” Explore the fine details about the place, it’s aboriginal, the migrant population, the culture and the impact of urbanization in social life. An unique experimental book of it’s own kind.




Rourkela: The Illustrated Journey Into The Life Of A City



The “Rourkela:  The illustrated journey into the life of a city ” book project is an unique attempt to stitch to weave a canvas of experience about a place through illustrative medium — it’s more about travelling through time and space to witness the growth of a city and it’s culture.

India’s  first ever integrated steel plant under public sector ‘Rourkela Steel Plant’ facility was established in Rourkela 1954-55. Post independence the then leaders wanted to set up a steel plant to make India self-dependent in iron and steel.Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India wanted to make India an industrialised state. Iron and Steel was the basic requirements of the people at the dawn of the independence. Finally the leaders of the nation selected Rourkela for a steel plant.

So what is the story behind this? How was the city selected? What was the history of that place before? The book tries to explore this fascinating story in with the vivid illustrations. It

aims to include those little little things that makes help understand the place better – including the flocklore of the place to actual historical linkage to some part of the place that typically go unnoticed due to the fact that the place is less written about in different books and magazines.

– See more at:



Formalism, Simplified


Filippo TommasoMarinetti

The Background:

19th century Russian criticism was largely didactic. It was , primarily a weapon of liberal and later revolutionary opposition to the tsarist regime.


Towards 1890 (i.e. the end of 19th century), there came the symbolism with Dimitri Merezhkovsky and Valerii Briusov. So, for the first time criticism became partly aesthetic , which took into its consideration the “suggestion” of words, the personal mood of poetic themes. Some , like Vladimir solovev saw in symbolism an opportunity for Russian religious thought, as symbolism provided the magic of revelation of higher values.

But then many saw symboliusm as a revival of Romanticism (as it opposed to Realism and Naturalism).


During such a period, there raised a group whose statements were based upon classicism under the name of “Clarism” and “Acmeism”. They were also more like Paranassians, who stress on clarity and emphasize upon objectivity and concreteness. In addition, during this period Marxism came to front, being formulated in the writings of Plekhanov and Lenin. And this Marxism was a kind of revival of didacticism and return to the taste of 19th century realism.


Thus, the battle lines were drawn in 1910, as aestheticism, symbolism, Marxism confronted one another sharply. By this period the whole Europe (non-British), had been undergoing drastic change in literary theories, with a blurring distinctions among them, under the name of “Futurism” (Italian evolution) and Modernism is somewhat old term dating back to the middle ages in England. But in about a 1887, the form Die Moderne became a slogan of writers, whom we would classify as naturalists. But then this term modernism used widely, for instance , in Richard Ellmann and Charles Feidelson’s The Modern Tradition (1965) and in Irving Howe’s Literary Modernism(1967).


As far as “Futurism” is concerned, it developed in italy towards the beginning of 20th century. In 1909 the major manifesto of futurism was published by Filippo Marinetti in Le Figaro (1909), which advocated the complete breakup with the tradition and aimed at new forms, new subjects and new styles in keeping with the advent of the machine age. They advocated the dynamism, the machine and speed, the patriotism and splendour of war. This towards 1920, became more aggressive and Fasistic as it created movements like Dadaism and expressionism.


In Russia this futurism along with “Cubism”, “Dadaism”, “Surrealism” and other Avant-Grade groups(Avant-Grade is a term coined BY Gabriel –Desire Laverdant in 1845 ) put their effect on the groups who were opposed to symbolism and aesthetic values in literature.


Following 1909’s manifesto of Italian futurism (by Fillippo Marrinetti), in 1912 the notorious manifesto ‘A Slap in the Face of Public Taste’ (signed by david Burlink, Alexei Kruchenykh and Velimir Khlebnikov) was published stating to “throw Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and all others overboard from the steamship of modernity”.


In 1926, roman Jackobson established the Prague school, which was influenced by this spirit (as well as by the Italian futurism). And this school believed in the rejection of organic, biological, “beautiful” form in favour of abstract, geometrical , stylized art and the machine. Other schools and linguistic groups like OPOIAZ (Scociety for the study of poetic language established in 1919) supported this, under the label of ‘Formalism.’.


The Russian formalists were primarily interested in the way that literary texts achieve their effects and in establishing scientific basis for the study of literature.








The formalist theory can be grouped under the following main categories:


  1. The evolution of form:

The formalists collapse the distinctions between the form and content. They consider ‘form’ to be the result of two operations: (i) Deformation (ii) Organization.


Deformation means the change achieved by poetic language in contrast to the language of prose, patterning by the sound repeatations  and figures. But all the ‘devices’, must be used (e.g. like ‘plot’ in a novel is a device) in a systematic manner, or in other words organized.


Thus Russian formalists first studied the sound patterns, meters and compositional forms.




  1. attack on poetry as “thinking images”:

visualization or the images in the context of poetry was according to the formalistic view useless. According to the formalists the visualization of any “metaphor” is not necessary. Rather the poem achieves its effects by the use of sound patterns, grammatical parallels and contrasts.



  1. theory parallel to New criticism of America:

Formalists redefined the social function of art: “the purpose of art is to make us see things, not to know them. Art is there to awaken us from our usual torpor” . this reminds us about the theory of John Crowe Ransom’s insistence on the contrast of science and art, art being assigned the function of returning’the world’s body’ to us.




  1. art is a puzzle:

formalists view art as a jigsaw puzzle. Frame stories such as The Arabian nights with their constant delays and disappointments adventures and mystery stories, detective novels with their riddles and surprises serve as example. This shows that formalists were more concerned with the form than the aesthetic human values.




  1. the process of “automization” :



Formalists rejected the usual literary history as a ragbag of uncoordinated facts. As Norman Jakobson says:



The old literary historians remind us of policemen who in order to arrest a certain individual , arrest everybody and carry off everything from his lodgings and arrest also anyone who passed by on the street. The historians of literature use everything – the social setting, psychology, politics, philosophy. Instead of literary scholarship, they give us a conglomeration of homogeneous disciplines.


(Reprinted in Selected Writings 1979)





and formalists solve this problem by the process of “automization” – focousing on poetic diction and its evolution by wearing of f the novelty. Thus formalists put the study of the actual work of literature into the centre of scholarship.




Present status:



Many believe that formalism is analogus to the NewCriticism movement of America. But this is not true. Though many points match or resemble in both movements, the essential difference lies in the differences in ethos and emphasis. While formalists were aiming in being revolutionary, the other one lays stress on the tradition. Formalists were associated with more on science than in the interpretation.


The movement of Formalism died in 1930’s just 10 years after its birth , but it influenced the coming movements like Structuralism of Ferdinand de Sassure.




The above post is taken from the book “A Beginner’s Guide to Modern Critical Theory ” by Samir K. Dash , First Ed (c) 2005.
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