Tell us how Inedible India came about.
Instead of the usual satire directed at politicians, I thought it would be interesting to satirise the Indian public’s duplicities and eccentricities. I derived the idea of creating comic strips, without actually sketching them, from Aarthi Parthasarathy’s Royal Existentials. I wanted the strip to be about sociopolitical issues that we can’t and shouldn’t digest. When one particular strip on death penalty went viral, the traffic on my page was unmanageable and an independent Facebook page for the series arose.
Why do you choose vintage Indian art, particularly the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma to create the comic strips?
I think satire works well when we juxtapose a vintage painting and a contemporary social issue. Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings were mostly based on Indian mythological characters and stories. They are beautiful and popular. Also, making mythological characters converse about these issues accentuates the satire.
How do you choose the issues for your strips?
To begin with, as a society, we believe in a lot of myths about ourselves. We proudly claim to be an inclusive society while we stay deeply patriarchal and casteist. My strips aim to highlight this gap. I also share my opinion on hotly debated issues in mainstream social media. Then, there are certain issues which aren’t discussed enough like campus suicides. So I make strips around them.
How powerful are comic strips as expressions of dissent and criticism?
The biggest power comic strips hold is of taking a message to a larger audience. The use of humour and visuals helps in breaking down complex arguments into simple, interesting conversations between characters. It’s also easy to talk about taboo issues through this format. Simultaneously, the added responsibility of a larger audience than any regular Facebook post makes me extra careful in what I say. I sometimes consult my friends for their opinion on the strip before I go ahead with it.
Where is Inedible India headed in terms of ‘making a point’?
I want Inedible India to continue making sensible critiques on important issues while being humorous. It’s just been three months since the series started. Once we cross the 150th issue, I might try new ideas. Like moving to a video format, expanding to regional languages and going into print.