‘Epic’ illustrations

Amrita Prasad
Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Bengaluru-based Annushka Hardikar has come up with an illustrated series portraying Indian women in a new light with the help of mythological characters

For Annushka Hardikar, a 22-year-old illustrator residing in Bengaluru, creating illustrations and storytelling goes hand-in-hand. Hardikar, originally hailing from Pune, has a degree in Visual Communication from Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru. Her fondness for art and craft and love for books with vibrant pictures, inspired her to draw all the stories she read or made up in her head. Her college introduced her to the world of illustration.

Some of her series are amusing while some others are thought-provoking. Her latest series Oh Nari, So Sanskari! which caught a lot of eyeballs, is being appreciated for its wit and satire. The series takes a jibe at the status of women in India. Hardikar, who enjoys working manually the most — using fine tip pens, brush pens, watercolours, gouache, colour pencils and a mix of these, also works digitally using Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and Indesign to create illustrations.
The series shows Draupadi, Kunti and Gandhari, the prominent characters from the Mahabharata taking on regressive concepts like the undue emphasis on virginity, unrealistic standards of beauty and so on.

Hardikar finds the ‘submissive and one-dimensional’ portrayal of these women in the Mahabharata disturbing. She says, “Oh Nari, So Sanskari! is a satirical take on stories of women from the great Indian epic. It sheds light on the challenges that the 21st century Indian woman faces, by placing Kunti, Gandhari and Draupadi in a modern context. Although dynamic and capable, the women in the story were always shown dependent on the men in their lives. Being an Indian woman myself, there was a pressing need for accurate representation of the characters as aware, vocal, and opinionated. Using references from feminist history, pop culture and media, the zine comments upon stereotypes that have surrounded Indian women from time immemorial. I would want the reader to be left questioning the roles and expectations of our culturally rooted society.”

Hardikar has used witty dialogues which take a dig at the Indian society. When asked about the selection of the words and phrases, she says, “For the ‘millennial’ generation of today (her target audience) to be able to connect to the stories from the Mahabharata, they needed to be re-told in a way that highlighted existing stereotypes and scenarios and the deeply orthodox cultural undertones that are still prevalent in our society yet never addressed. On doing my research, it was evident that a majority of women’s magazines only aimed at convincing women they were reading something of substance, when in fact they were just projecting perfect lives and selling products.”

While creating a character, Hardikar tends to seek inspiration from her surroundings with some element of whimsicality or exaggeration. “I enjoy creating natural forms and recording spaces. Sometimes it’s the medium that dictates the artwork, at other times I have a set idea in mind when I begin to draw. I also enjoy creating characters inspired by experiences from day to day life,” says the young artist.

She usually begins by putting down a few crucial words while creating a character and then goes on to make rough sketches/doodles based on them. “I then look at references and proceed to try out various styles,” she adds.

Her illustrations What is LOL, an alphabet book designed on understanding text and chat lingo for the older generation is also fascinating. “This book was actually inspired by my own grandparents. I was fascinated by how they were in touch with the latest gadgets and technology, but I realised they faced a problem in understanding the lingo of my generation. As part of a college project,  I decided to do one for the older generation about commonly used texting and chat terms. Each alphabet stated and illustrated an example. This was to bridge the gap between the two generations and for them to be introduced into the digital world,” she concludes.

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