Inedible India is a web-only satirical comic strip, created by the politically-astute and jocular Rajesh Rajamani. Inspired by the web comic series, ‘Royal Existentials’, Rajesh began to create comic strips with Mughal-era pictures and Raja Ravi Varma paintings as a backdrop to comment on current political, cultural and economic scenarios.
Having fallen in love with comics since discovering Calvin and Hobbes, Rajesh has continued to pursue his artistic passions while balancing his day job as a banker.
Q: What inspired you to start Inedible India?
A: Sociopolitical satire in India is mostly directed at politicians. I thought it would be interesting to create a comic series that would satirize the Indian public, our eccentricities, double standards and how we deal with various social inequalities. But the idea never took off because I had no talent for drawing. During August last year, I came across a web-comic series by Aarthi Parthasarathy called ‘Royal Existentials’ that uses Mughal miniature paintings. I was very excited to see that it’s possible to create a comic series that didn’t involve any drawing or painting. And that led to the creation of Inedible India.
Q: Why did you choose particularly paintings by Raja Ravi Varma for your comics?
A: Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings are mostly based on Indian mythological characters and stories. They are beautiful, popular and I thought the readers would easily identify with them. And making these mythological characters converse about social or political issues accentuates the satire.
I also use Kalighat paintings depicting mythological characters for the same reason. In addition to this, there are also a set of Kalighat paintings which illustrate the Bengal bourgeois life. These again add humor to the social commentary. And that’s why I prefer them.
Q: Why did you particularly choose the medium of web comics over others?
A: I have considered a few formats to share my sociopolitical commentary. A single frame cartoon, web-comic series, Youtube channel or stand-up comedy. Cartoons were ruled out because I can’t draw. A Youtube channel or standup comedy involves more resources and people. I preferred web-comics because it is relatively easier to create them. They also give enough space for nuance and offer more freedom and control.
Q:Of the several comic strips you created, which are the ones that are your favourite?
A: I made one on ‘death penalty’ during the initial days of the series and a lot of people noticed Inedible India because of that. So I have a special liking for that one. Apart from that, I made one on ‘Women’s day’ recently. It involved lot of visual improvisation and I made the characters in a Ravi Varma’s painting talk about how social media reacts to Women’s Day. It was fun creating it. There is another I made on ‘Hindi Imperialism’ which was very minimalistic. But I think it came out pretty alright.
Q:What is your opinion on the comic art/graphic novel scene in India?
A: We have millions of stories to tell in our country. I think comic art and graphic novels are now trying to capture these stories and narrate them in their format. The presence of an active social media has also helped the creators find a larger audience much easily than before. So I think we are going to have more artists and writers choosing to do this in the coming days.
Q: Who are the Indian comic artists you admire and why?
A: I like ‘Royal Existentials’ for how it is both topical and timeless. ‘Sanitary Panel’s for being simple and to the point. ‘Crocodile in water, tiger on land’ for their brilliant illustrations.
Q: Which are the web comics you enjoy viewing and why?
A: I don’t know if I can call ‘Pearl Before Swine’ a webcomic. But I am big fan of the series. It is very quirky, irreverent and funny. Apart from that I love Connie Sun for her beautiful illustrations and poignant messages. I also like Joan Cornellà for how bizarre and addictive he is. Sarah’s Scribbles because she is funny and I totally identify with her awkward introverted-ness.
Q: Have any of your comic strips been censored so far?
A: Not really. But I did get into a lot of trouble from readers for using a Ravi Varma painting which depicted a Hindu deity. I even got messages saying a FIR has been filed against me. But nothing really happened. Still, just to play it safe, I try not using a Hindu deity’s painting for the comic strip.
Q:In your opinion, how successful is the medium of comic strips in promoting activism?
A: I’m not sure about activism. But sociopolitical satire has always helped create a space for discussing serious issues. It is generally difficult to make people think and discuss about caste and gender inequalities. But sociopolitical satire, through comic strips help do that.
Q: How has the journey been so far? Did you face any roadblocks?
A: I have got more attention than I imagined I would. So it’s certainly been good so far. I would also like to believe that I have evolved a bit as a comic-writer through the series. And it’s been really fun creating them. So I hope to continue doing it.
There have been no roadblocks really. Except, I now have to regularly make time to write and create the comic strips. Which is a bit of a challenge at times.
Check out more brilliant comic strips on Inedible India’s Facebook page and follow their Twitter for updates and some snarky criticism!
Images belong to Inedible India
This article of mine was edited by Manisha Ganguly and previously published in Eyezine.