Fountain Ink has gone big with essays and photo stories instead of fiction and poetry

When the team behind Fountain Ink, a Chennai-based magazine, was faced with the choice of either going all out or staying low key, budget constraints made them choose the latter. The team behind this magazine, only eight issues old, has no complaints.

Fountain Ink was founded to favour long-form writing with detailed reportage, essays and photo stories, giving journalism a fresh perspective and journalists their much loved space.

All this content is wrapped in a minimalist cover and the magazine itself comes at a low price of Rs. 20. During the first three months of publication, the magazine was sold at just Rs. 5 in Chennai.

Indian reportage

“Exploring India through long-form writing always appealed to me,” says Saurav Kumar, the magazine's editor. He previously worked as a newspaper journalist in Ahmedabad and Bangalore.

“Newspapers did give me an opportunity to write in long form sometimes, but even the most detailed article would have to be restricted to say 1,500 words,” says Saurav, whose love for detailed articles is seen in the ‘reportage' section of Fountain Ink. Issues that the Indian is familiar with are discussed here and leave the reader with narratives that increase his/her understanding of issues one may not otherwise feel connected to.

For instance, A Writer's Road, an article on hardships faced by the regional language author in the magazine's January issue is so absorbing that it gets the reader racking his/her brains for strategies to help promote the regional language author.

“Our contributors have not done much writing in long form before. Though they are initially hesitant, a little push is all it takes to get them writing,” shares Saurav.

Not literary

Fountain Ink refrains from being a literary magazine and has gone big with essays and photo stories instead of fiction and poetry. “Fountain Ink is a short magazine and so they can choose to concentrate on a few long pieces,” says Sreekumar Menon who teaches at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.

“The thought is to revive the culture of writing essays,” says Saurav. The essays section, unlike reportage, carries contributions from non-journalists too. Topics are diverse and the expertise of the writer in the subject area shines through his/her writing, spruced up by illustrations.

The ‘photo story' section is also one to look out for. Whether it is a collection of Mario Miranda's work or a glimpse into the unreleased work of Sudharak Olwe, the photos are introduced artfully.

‘Q and A', the interview section, lets us have long conversations on subjects with the people concerned, which is a welcome change in the world of two-line commentary.

Away from the action

Does working from Chennai give the magazine any advantage or does it keep them away from all the action in Delhi?

“Definitely an advantage,” Saurav is quick to reply. “It helps the magazine maintain a pan-Indian perspective easily.”

Marketing head Vidya Arjun shared that the distribution channel included small towns across the country, including Basti in Uttar Pradesh, Bellary in Karnataka, Anand in Gujarat and Guwahati in Assam.

“It shatters the notion that only people in big cities read. We have so far sold every copy that we sent to these small towns,” Saurav says.

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