Over the past week, the familiar illustrations of an intrepid Belgian reporter, a moody merchant sailor and a white wire fox terrier have been creating waves of excitement on the internet. But this time, Tintin, Captain Haddock and the faithful Snowy are not searching for lost treasure in a submarine or exploring the surface of the moon.
Instead, the characters of comic album series The Adventures of Tintin are taking a stroll down Pondicherry’s famous promenade along the beach. In the backdrop is Pondicherry’s old lighthouse, constructed in the 19th century by its erstwhile French rulers. Also in the frame is Le Cafe, the waterfront coffee shop that used to be the French harbour office in the 18th century. On their morning walk, Hergé’s characters are taking in the sights and sounds of White Town and its people.
“Height of creativity,” exclaimed one Facebook user. Said another, “Don’t know whether this is genuine or some fan art. But the idea of Tintin in Pondicherry is so exciting!!”
The travels of Tintin and his companions in the union territory is indeed a work of fan art, painted more than three years ago by a 68-year-old French artist Jacques Beaumelle. He has been a resident of Pondicherry for the past eight years, where he frequently holds exhibitions displaying his paintings and drawings. According to Beaumelle, all his paintings have one thing in common – they reflect the “magnificence of light and colours” of landscapes and trees, portraits of people he meets in everyday life, local architecture and boats of Pondicherry.
While many of his works are in the form of pencil drawings or oil paintings, Beaumelle experiments with different tools and materials. As per his website, he even paints on pieces of wood and is comfortable with painting with a knife.
Beaumelle was surprised that after three years, his illustrations are doing the rounds of social media. The idea for the fan art stemmed from his memory of Tintin in Tibet, where Tintin and a very grumpy Haddock wait for hours at the Delhi airport for a flight to Kathmandu. “I thought, if Tintin existed today, maybe they may say ‘Why don’t we go see Pondicherry?’”
Beaumelle claims to be an ardent fan of Tintin, and said that he had a big collection of Tintin comics back in France, but not anymore. “How is it possible to not love Tintin?” he said. “When you are a child, you read and discover so many countries, and go on so many adventures with the hero and his friend Captain Haddock. You can make a trip to the moon or to the depths of the ocean. It is magic.”
Ever since he visited Pondicherry in 2010 for an art project, Beaumelle has been particularly fascinated by the city, its people and architecture. He eventually met his wife Helen here.
In another painting by Beaumelle, Tintin, Haddock and Snowy are passing through the lanes of Pondicherry, lined with buildings of orange and sun burnt yellow, showcasing French colonial architecture.
“I think Tintin must have known the French colony,” said Beaumelle. “He was a reporter, so maybe a new story would have been born in his mind, if he had visited.”