KOCHI: Shashwath Santhosh and Nithin Dony Eluvathingal, two high school friends now based in different corners of the world, have come together to create a magical playground of nostalgia and fiction through their page Kinky Kashayam
When high school best friends Shashwath Santhosh and Nithin Dony Eluvathingal realised that they could also be great creative collaborators, their life turned around. The 19-year-olds who study design in New York and finance in Toronto, respectively, run the eccentric art page Kinky Kashayam on Instagram. Ever since its inception in May as a quarantine project, the handle has turned an avant garde, almost tongue-in-cheek reimagination of national and more specifically South Indian history through the medium of digital collage and photo morphing.
Creating a stark juxtaposition between a lived past and a fantastical future, Shashwath and Nithin distort archival images from cinema, politics, chronicled material and advertisements to project an alternate reality. Their work signals a possibility where space travel is as much a viable possibility as a transatlantic houseboat journey from Alleppey to New York. Their latest post, for example, is a hypothetical future set in 2064 where humans, now inhabitants of Mars, observe the Earth Memorial Day. The print seems to be something straight of an old-timey newspaper advertisement brought out by a music record company urging customers to reminisce the past by listening to a mix tape of South Indian hits.
“We grew up in Coimbatore but both of us are Malayalis. So we are South Indians at heart. We realised, however, that there is not enough South Indian representation in popular culture in terms of content and art. We wanted to change that and are attempting to marry contemporary global mores with indigenous motifs,” says Shashwath, who by his own admission, is the hands of the team, working his magic on Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and other software. “Nithin does most of the research. So I guess he is the brain of the page. The feed is a reflection of who we are. Our worldview is western but our preoccupations and interest harp back to our native land,” adds Shashwath.
Apart from the blend of sci-fi futurism with the present-day, mundane and quintessential Indian symbols, of which another instance is IRCTC’s Nilgiri-Shani Express promising a ride around Saturn’s rings with a view of Halley’s Comet, Kinky Kashayam also comments on the growing neocolonial manifestations within the country. A significant number of posts are self-explanatory juxtapositions or superimpositions of an prototypical image from India with an equally paradigmatic picture from the west.
“We Indians are very quick to adopt western culture. Everything about the west is ascribed an elite or aspirational status. We want to change that. We would like to show endemic customs and culture can be as cool as what we think of foreign countries. We are committed to making this happen with Kinky Kashayam,” says Nithin.
You can find their work on Instagram @kinkykashayam