Satire that is crisp, funny and effective

Comic strip

In an interesting take on the “sociopolitical satire” that is “mostly directed at politicians”, 30-year-old Rajesh Rajamani started his Facebook page Inedible India in August, 2015.

Inspired by Aarthi Parthasarthy’s webcomic series Royal Existentials, Rajamani creates comic strips using historical and mythological paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, which he says, “accentuates the satire” that he wants to portray.

Rajamani’s comics make us laugh and at the same time force us to think, as he illustrates topics like the existence of common man, how we have excuses to not follow New Year resolutions and the whirlpool of marketing gimmicks we all are trapped in. In a conversation with Metrolife, he talks about his venture and what message he wants to convey.

Why did you choose satire as a medium of expression?

Satire as a form of criticism and resistance is something that I am more comfortable with. And I certainly enjoy doing this. Rather than writing a long serious essay on an issue, satirising it makes the message crisp and effective. And because it is funny, it also has the chance to reach a wider audience.

How did the idea of Inedible India come about?

Sociopolitical satire in India is mostly directed at politicians. I thought it would be interesting to create a comic series that would satirise the Indian public, our eccentricities and double standards, and how we deal with various social inequalities.
 
What message are you trying to convey through Inedible India? Does it have a global relevance?

It is an attempt to share the opinions of oppressed and marginal groups on various social-political issues, while still being fun. And I certainly want it to be relevant to the Indian audience. Also, the page shares a perspective that most mainstream avenues don’t have a space for. So in a small way, it tries to take the opinions of the marginalised groups to a larger audience.

Why Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings?

Even though the comic series is about serious issues, I wanted to keep it light, satirical and funny. And I think the satire works well when we juxtapose a vintage painting and a contemporary social issue. Also, unlike the case of using contemporary Indian paintings, there would be no copyright infringement issues in using vintage art works.

So I use Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings which are mostly based on Indian mythological characters and stories. Readers can easily identify with them. And making these mythological characters converse about social or political issues, accentuates the satire.

With reference to the Children’s day comic, what lead to it? What is its relevance?

In the last few years, I got an opportunity to read on caste, class and gender. That helped me look at everything around through these perspectives. When you look at most important days of celebration in the country, they are commemorated on a leader’s birthday, who is usually male and upper caste.

The comic strip tries to discuss that in reality, we do have several leaders who are women or from lower castes and have contributed significantly to the society, in spite of the obstacles they had to face because of their identities.

What have you tried to imply through the ‘Happy to Bleed’ comic strip?

‘Happy to Bleed’ was a campaign created to fight against a temple’s authorities proposing scanners to detect women on their periods. The comic strip was written to show my solidarity with the campaign and to illustrate how women fight against such oppressive patriarchal norms.

What does the ‘Netflix and chill’ comic represent?

In romantic relationships, men often feel entitled to a lot of things and don’t take no for an answer. I wanted to make a comic strip about an assertive woman who says a clear no to a man’s advances. I wanted to keep the conversation contemporary, topical and a little funny. So I brought in the ‘Netflix and chill’ line into their conversation.

Is your satire taken in a healthy manner?

I get both appreciation and criticism for the content. Sometimes very strong hate messages too. But I think that’s how satire works. It should make the readers uncomfortable about their status-quo and make them see an issue through a new perspective.

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