BENGALURU: Aarthi Parthasarathy’s weekly webcomic Royal Existentials is a study in contrast. At first glance you see detailed comic panels of Mughal miniatures and you zoom in expecting a historical exposition. What greets you can make you do a double take.
Traditional characters from Mughal miniature paintings become mouthpieces for a feminist narrative on a patriarchal world. While Mughal miniature paintings have always provided insight into the society, culture and customs of India between the 16th and 18th centuries, this comic series presents a fun mirror to 21st century preoccupations.
Thirty-year-old Aarthi Parthasarathy, an alumna of Srishti School of Design and the co-founder of city-based film and animation studio Falana Dimka, has created videos for a number of civic and art initiatives, including the Daily Dump, Fearless Collective (a public art initiative run by Shilo Shiv Suleman). In the middle of her myriad professional projects, she takes time out for this webcomic. “A few years ago, I came across this comic series, Wondermark by artist David Malki, which reinterprets 19th century Victorian illustrations in a modern light. This gave me the idea of doing something similar in the Indian context. Three months ago, I started the Royal Existentials,” says Aarthi.
Aarthi sources the images and writes the comics while Chaitanya Krishnan, her partner in the studio, helps with the animation loops as well as layouts.
“I choose images with a potentially interesting scenario. The idea is to create a bank of stories that will arouse curiosity as well as engage readers,” says Aarthi. At the moment, the Royal Existentials' topics are “socially conscious with feminist overtones”. Most of all, they are funny, bridging the medieval-modern divide by drawing on elements from both contexts, juxtaposing them as well as making metatextual comments.
“Thus we have a drunk courtesan decrying patriarchy, a wife talking to her pet parrot about her unfufilled needs and a daughter criticising a male-dominated world, while her father regards her irateness as a result of the oversight of the artist who forgot to complete her hand in the painting!”
It's here: www.royalexistentials.com