Ever since our first collaboration, we’ve been big fans of Aindri Chakraborty… and this month, we are excited and proud to showcase her new short comic The Beast and the Minnow in the Autumn edition of Forbes Life.
Prabha Mallya helms this Q&A and delves deep into Aindri’s world to find out about her influences, her childhood forays into autobiographical comics, her ‘style’ (a word she “doesn’t like at all”), her upcoming projects and more…
Aindri Chakraborty - storyteller extraordinaire :)
Prabha: Tell us a bit about yourself: your background, what you do now?
Aindri: I am an animator and illustrator based in India and UK. I graduated from NID with an animation degree and wanted to work with MTV since I was seven. (Or whenever they had the 6:30pm time MTV slot on Doordarshan after that programme about farmers.) When I was young I didn’t care about the farmers, but now I think I do.
I think my social awareness was the reason I left music television and went on to work with some really kickass people working in film, education and storytelling. I am writing a script for an animation film that I want to start working on soonish. Apart from that I sometimes demonstrate at conventions, do visual literacy workshops with school kids and write comics for Manta Ray about politics.
Prabha: You animate, write, illustrate - do you think in words or images or both?
Aindri: The best thing about animation is the suspension of disbelief. Case in point- the talking mouse. You believe him when he is in love, when he is hungry or when he is on an adventure-The soul behind animation is in image making. So they go hand in hand. A lot of my animator friends pun a lot. I think words and images become play toys and one can do what they want with them. The trick is to not be serious in life to miss out on the small details - I am way too serious. I am trying not to be.
Birds-on-loop - Aindri’s quirky, fascinating blog about the feathered ones
Prabha: How did you get into making comics/graphic stories?
Aindri: This is super embarrassing but true. When I was young I sat with most of the family members on Sunday afternoons watching whatever was on Zee Cinema. I think I was quite disturbed by those 80s movies with lots of rape- painfully long Madras cuts of the same expressions-lust and fear. I hated Shakti Kapoor. Somehow I needed to draw them out to get those images out of my system. I showed them as a comic format to my grandfather and he banned me from watching any more tv. So comics became autobiographical to me- almost like diary entries- they’re super therapeutic.
Prabha: What inspires you, and how do these things find their way into your work?
Aindri: I am amazed at outsider art- there is that sense of naivety and honesty which is very difficult to capture because our professional practice trains us to look at only one aspect of the communication- how it looks to others. I love work created out of the subconscious- which is focussed on mark making. I don’t follow anyone in particular but when I work I usually approach my work in two ways- one is completely without any thinking, just exploration with various tools, the other is on focussed work. Maybe one texture takes me a day to work on. I try to combine both those elements within my work.
Artwork by Aindri
Prabha: What topics do you particularly like to draw and write about?
Aindri: I draw about things that affect me. Once I am intrigued about something I read up everything about it, watch films on it, talk to people about it etc. Once I am consumed by all that information I can then produce something about it. I am quite scared of someone ratting me out on some negligence on my part. So I tend to do my homework in as thorough way I possible. I am quite interested in drawing parallels between news and folktales at the moment- both have similar narrative structures- they’re both linear with a hidden lesson or moral behind them. If the good and bad guys are not identified by the news media to the audience then it gets confusing. Hence I see that similarity with folktales.
Prabha: How would you describe your artistic style?
Aindri: Ooooh! I don’t like the word “style” at all! I know it’s super important for a commercial illustrator but it de values the nature of aesthetic in a superficial manner. For example- tools! Each tool- markers, colour pencils, digital, pencils, crayons, watercolours, acrylics all have their own personality. Illustration for me is about understanding the storytelling power of these tools.
I don’t have one “style” I suppose. For this comic I thought outsider art would work really well, because in the end it’s about corner shops- they’re outsiders to supermarkets. I did think about photo-montage- because it’s got that autobiographical element about it, but in the end I thought outsider art- crayons, colour pencils, badly drawn buildings would bring out the essence of what I wanted to say or ask in this context. I really didn’t know anything about supermarkets so I thought it would be interesting to have that naivety within the work.
Aindri’s artwork from an upcoming comic book.
Prabha: What’s the story behind Beast and Minnow?
Aindri: The story behind Beast and the Minnow is inspired by my regular trips to the local agent who I have known for the past two years. He is turkish and his entire family runs the cornershop for people on my street. Just down the road are two giant supermarkets. I have been observing my spending habits for sometime now- when you’re skint then you go to a specific place to buy your stuff. When you’re loaded you go somewhere else. When you’re in a hurry you go somewhere else as well. I think it’s an Indian thing- about saving money and we usually talk about it when I am buying my milk at the counter or something like that. I think all those conversations came out in the comic. Well, not all of it.
Prabha: Are there other Beasts and Minnows in our lives?
Aindri: There are beasts and minnows in every ecosystem. Usually all follow the same pattern. Tiny fish swim in giant swirls to fend off predators. Corner shops do it too. They are every where fighting against one giant brick and chrome structure.
A photo-montage artwork by Aindri
Prabha: What other exciting work from you can we look forward to?
Prabha Mallya’s Hypertext was showcased in the Monsoon Edition of Forbes Life. She is also an integral part of the Manta Ray core team and a frequent contributor to The Small Picture. You can see more of her work at her blog.