Humor has for long been used as a weapon of human intelligence against oppression and inequality. Even as the foundations of free expression are shaky in India today, and bans and sedition charges are looming over us, these brave youngsters don’t hold back. Witty, sarcastic and not afraid to call a spade by its name, their comics stand up against inequality, ignorance and injustice. From gender issues to environment and politics, here are six web comics that you must follow to keep abreast with current and social affairs of India:
Mumbai-based artist and animator Priyesh Trivedi created this series to mock the whole idea of conformity. Taking visual cues from the Ideal Boy posters that were all the rage in the 80s, Adarsh Balak is edgy and has no dialogues. With a face calm as a cow, the Adarsh Balak character defies his ideal upbringing by doing what he wants to. Trivedi quit his job as an animator, dissatisfied with the animation potential in India. He’s been working as a freelancer since, until he stumbled upon this idea in October 2013. He began working on the series full time since June 2014.
Rachita Taneja’s web series is a boldly refreshing take on feminism. A human rights activist in Bengaluru, she began drawing these in 2014. Deadpan and hard-hitting, Sanitary Panels looks right through issues and analyses what exactly is wrong, in just four panels or less. Its simple stick figure representation only amplifies the message. Apart from feminism, her comics also touch upon environmental issues, politics, current affairs and general irritations in life.
With artwork inspired by popular adult animated series South Park, Sikh Park had started off as commentary on racism faced by Asians abroad. But after its creator Dalbir Singh moved from Canada to India, its focus shifted along with him. Today, his comics are a mirror to what a common Sikh family in India is like. Careful not to tread on religion, he keeps it simple. A much-needed change from the regular Santa-Banta jokes, Sikh Park is popular for its easily relatable situations.
Raising environmental concerns, Rohan Chakravarty’s comics tell us everything we didn’t know about India’s wildlife and conservation. Green Humor has more than 250 illustrated comics that are informative, chuckle-worthy, and inspiring. An ex-dentist who couldn’t resist the urge to take up cartooning for a cause after an encounter with a tiger, he draws cartoons for WWF, National Geographic and more.
Aarthi Parthasarathy is another Bengaluru-based cartoonist, filmmaker and writer. She began the weekly web comic in 2014, using vintage miniature Indian paintings as the backdrop. The characters in the comic are often having a discussion, sometimes ranting, about gender issues, communalism, dissent, class differences and philosophical musings. The comic value of Royal Existentialists comes across when one imagines the setting of the Mughal era painting, and its characters discussing issues that might as well be relevant to their era.
Inspired by Royal Existentialists, Rajesh Rajamani created Inedible India in 2014 using Raja Ravi Varma paintings. But while Royal Existentialists focused on feminism and class inequalities, Rajesh’s comics are a snarky political commentary, laced with his opinions. News headlines give him ideas for his comics, making them topical and viral on social media. A banker in Chennai, his acute judgment of current affairs touches a chord with his followers.