Meet The Makers – Mandy Ord and Annie Zaidi

Still from Anarkali by Mandy Ord

Still from Anarkali, artwork by Mandy Ord

Mandy Ord and Annie Zaidi’s story Anarkali is a re imagining of an old Indian tale.

Annie writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry and scripts. Mandy writes autobiographical Comics and cartoons.
Annie is the editor of Unbound: 2,000 years of Indian Women’s Writing and the author of Gulab, Love Stories # 1 to 14, and Known Turf: Bantering with Bandits and Other True Tales. Mandy has a long history of self publishing and has published three books, NY and Rooftops with Finlay Lloyd and Sensitive Creatures with Allen & Unwin .

Their story Anarkali first appeared in Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, published by Allen and Unwin.

Page 1 of Anarkali by Mandy Ord and Annie Zaidi

Page 1 of Anarkali by Mandy Ord and Annie Zaidi

We asked them both some questions and they responded.

Who are you and what is your role in Anarkali?

Annie. I am a writer based in India. I wrote the story (this particular version of it, not the original Anarkali, which is the stuff of legend and has been told and re-told many times in the Indian subcontinent).

Mandy. My name is Mandy Ord and I make comics.

What is your process, where did the idea for Anarkali come from?

Annie. I write in different genres, so the process must change with each project, depending on whether I’m doing it for its own sake, or whether it’s commissioned and what the format is like. For fiction, I tend to pick up on a moment in the life of a character, then reel it out to see if it goes anywhere.

Mandy. As I mainly write autobiographical stories I record my experiences in notebooks, sketchbooks and even small scraps of paper that I shove into my back pocket. I then let the ideas stay in my head for a while and then sit down to craft some sort of story out of them. I use Schoellshammer paper, India ink and a very thin paintbrush. Everything is hand drawn, nothing on the computer.

Annie. Anarkali comes from a collaboration with Mandy Ord. We were put together for an Indo-Australian project of feminist speculative fiction for young adult readers. When we met, I happened to tell her the story of a mythical literary character called Anarkali. Nobody knows if she existed but there is a grave in Lahore (in Pakistan) that bears her name. I knew about her only from cinema but these were iconic films, so popular that the characters were a part of our consciousness. I was very moved when I saw Mughal-e-Azam as a child, again as a teenager and then again as an adult. Some images were burnt into my mind. Anarkali (the actress Madhubala) dancing in joy, in love, and then in defiance; then she’s in chains, alone in a dungeon; then she’s walled up.

Mandy. It is a story about transformation, rebellion and hidden strength. We recorded Annie narrating the story and speaking of the relevance of the themes as they relate to women and culture.
Images from the original story were then arranged to compliment and add meaning to the narration with a small amount of implied movement and layers of sound.

Image from the classic bollywood film of 'Anarkali'

Image from the classic bollywood film of ‘Anarkali’

Annie. In India, particularly in the north and the deccan, there are huge forts and palaces. I don’t know if one can imagine the scale, size and awe-inducing solidity of these forts unless one has actually been there. Some walls are thick enough for two horses to walk abreast. Made of solid rock. It is impossible to imagine escape if you’re walled up behind some such wall. And yet, I wanted to imagine it.

What aspect of the Radio With pictures project engages you the most?

Mandy. The addition of sound to the narration and images to give an extra dimension and richness to the piece engages me. And I was really blown away with the power of Annie’s narration. How the process of forming the piece pushed us into new territory creatively and thematically.

What is your workspace like ?
Annie. Usually it’s just my laptop in my bedroom. But it could be a coffee shop or a desk somewhere else.
Mandy. I work in my home studio surrounded by comics, my computer, my desk and my small dog.

Mandy's Dog

Mandy’s Dog