Adarsh Balak: Not everyone's idea of ideal child

Out of the box

At the first glance, he would take you back to the illustrations of the boy in our Hindi text books in school and education charts. At the second glance, you will see a boy who obeys his parents but in the end, he does what he really wants to do.

About a year ago, when these ‘out of the box’ illustrations of Adarsh Balak hit the internet, people were overwhelmed relating so well with the child, in whom they “see a part of themselves being projected.”

“I see Adarsh Balak as a metaphor for the unapologetic inner child in all of us. Holding individualism very dear, I have tried to make the child and his friends symbolic to the idea of standing up for what one believes in and rejecting societal conventions. Though, the original educational charts were often highly stereotypical and subliminally political in content and presentation, the series, in a way, is also an attempt at reverse propaganda,” says Mumbai-based 25-year-old Priyesh Trivedi, creator of Adarsh

As much as the illustrations, which include the ‘Yolo Swag’ child, a child trying to console his father by giving him a joint, a friend giving boxing gloves to his friends in a duel, amuse us, the name too is intriguing.

“The name is borrowed from the original educational charts where the kid is getting up early and helping people cross the street. My idea was to take the word adarsh which is ‘ideal’ in Hindi and turn it over its head, by showing my protagonist do things that he thinks are right but the society would usually frown upon,” explains Trivedi.

Besides these, most of the Adarsh Balak comics and artworks revolve around themes like the use of cannabis, individualist anarchism, use of psychedelics, critique on consumerist capitalism and psychological manipulation by mass media which Trivedi feels strongly about.

“I keep dabbling with dark twisted storytelling as well in the form of comics. I love dark humour and I have a twisted perspective of looking at these small anecdotes that fit perfectly well in that format. Most of these paintings are ironical and sarcastic, that take no strong position one way or the other,” he tells Metrolife.

But Trivedi denies being anything like Adarsh Balak in his life. Terming himself as a “loner” in school, he says that he was “contemplative about things”. However, he never cared about “fitting in” or “being accepted” and that helped him in developing his worldview, which is reflected in his work as well.

“I guess the only thing common between me as a kid and Adarsh Balak was the side parted hair.”

Back in 2014, Netizens had two Adarsh Balak artworks coming up in a month. Eventually Trivedi got more active in displaying his work on exhibitions and selling the prints of the work.

“The nature of social media is such that there is a lot to see and do, so what you upload gets superseded by something else on people’s news feed in just a few seconds. It’s more important to give viewers something that really hits them hard enough even if it takes time to make as opposed to publishing content at a regular and frequent pace which ultimately leads to mediocrity. But, my primary outreach is Facebook and I want to be more active online, it’s going to start again now,” he says.

With the response that he got on the social media portal, will he commercialise Adarsh Balak? “Commercialising Adarsh Balak would corrupt the idea. Making money out of this project was never a part of the plan so I don’t feel the need to.”

But merchandising
Adarsh Balak is something that Trivedi looks forward to. “It’ll be strictly limited edition. It’s something I’m keen on but I have to make sure it’s not done to a degree where that becomes the only identity of Adarsh Balak instead of being seen as an art project. But for now, I’m more focused on taking Adarsh Balak to the gallery domain (which has anyway begun). That’s where I feel my works find the right setting and purpose and I feel more content as an artist than getting t-shirts made.”

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