Who says cartoons are childish?

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Crazy Desi Book series is special- witty, satirical, mind-blowing ‘man-animal’ characters that simply mirror real life situations that we can’t help finding ourselves in. In a chat with its authors Ananth Shankar and Nidhi Jaipuria, Janani Rajeswari S discovers more about cartooning, satire and a whole new experience. We can’t miss ‘Rat’appa, hailing from the middle-class who’s constantly vying to be on the top of the corporate world or the fussy Durga ‘Murga’ or ‘Yo’ bra, the youth with his i-pod plugged into his ears who slithers away into a world of his own. Or our very own ‘Goat’ee, the ‘lost’ foreigner who’s taken for a ride. “Crazy for the limitless thoughts and ‘Desi’ for the Indian touch, that’s Crazy Desi Book,” says Ananth. They call the four-book series ‘a mirror to the society’ through satire. “It’s a mission to make a comment on the bad and worst that exists and also to change it,” is how Ananth Shankar simply puts it.

Cartooning and self-publishing…

A brand designer who was part of both National Institute of Design and National Institute of Fashion Technology, Ananth was initially into cartooning part-time for The Times of India. His specialty is ‘Animalisation’ that reflects his love for them. “However, it’s true that cartoonists are not taken seriously and thus, have a desperate need to take up other jobs to remain afloat,” he admits.

However, a pastime became a serious passion. “I felt that the real society should be ridiculed. Moreover, I felt that it was important for my family to relate with my cartoons,” explains Ananth, who adds that cartooning is a very powerful medium that is otherwise treated as a childish experience.

His first book came in the form of ‘Bisi Busy Bangalore’ in 2004 which was narrated through the eyes of a street dog. “Back then, bookstores were happy to stock my book. However, I realised that the cost between the producer and the end of the product was far more. Thus, I decided to opt for self-publishing,” he adds. He dedicated his publishing house ‘Wags in the bags’ to his dog Bhagheera.

The idea to do his second book came years later. He has joined hands with Nidhi Jaipuria, who has been associated with the field of education for more than a decade now. Her work entails mainly helping kids play with words. She has a few short stories for children to her credit. “I usually don’t illustrate for others. But I did so for Nidhi’s collection of 24 one-page stories,” Ananth adds. Nidhi adds that the love for banter and fun actually brought the two together. “The book has grown on Ananth’s idea,” says Nidhi, who has co-authored the book series.

Humour and ‘Man’animals…

Crazy Desi Book can well be termed as India’s only animal satire comic book. “Today, when it comes to humour, it’s mostly slapstick that we get to see in the media. However, we felt the need for giving readers some intelligent humour,” she adds. What could be a better choice than depictions through animals that mean no harm to anyone? Welcome to the ‘Farm’ily. “It celebrates wildlife and depicts how life is lived by them,” says Nidhi.

The making of Crazy Desi Book…

So, how does one describe the book series in a line? “A slice of life. It comprises of the annoying situations we all face presented in the cartoon format with humour. It is an interesting mélange of 80 percent of illustrations and the rest is text,” says Ananth. Also, a compilation of experiences that Ananth and Nidhi have themselves gone through.

“We wanted the books to be about middle-class India, a re-invented ‘common man’ taking a dig at day-to-day happenings relevant to most city-dwellers. Food, travel, shopping and health pretty much sum up any homo sapiens’ daily priorities!” quips Ananth.

The first volume was on ‘Travel’ that was out in June last year. Remember the jam-packed share autos and how people reserve seats in overcrowded buses by putting their handkerchiefs on the seat. The next books were released after a span of three months each. When it comes to ‘Shopping’, one cannot ignore the obsession with ‘credit cards or how poor husbands wait endlessly outside shops while their better-halves take their own time to make their selections. If this does not suffice, check out the third and fourth editions of the book on ‘Food’ and on ‘Health’ respectively. “In each book, a page contains a word pertaining to the subject dealt with. This is given in order of A to Z,” explains Nidhi.

“A common thread that runs through all the four books is the use of vocabulary,” says Nidhi. She feels that Ananth has a unique style of writing. For instance, adding quirky and witty rhyming puns to each page. So, each page includes illustrations, a word and a rhyme.

Reaching out to the readers, personally…

It was yet again a conscious decision to uniquely sell the book series. “I must admit that bookstores just loved the idea of ‘Crazy Desi Book’. However, they were not sure who was going to read it,” says Nidhi. She adds that the distributor did offer to stock the book across various stores. “However, we chose to make the books available only on the website and spreading the word through word of mouth” explains Nidhi. This ensures us to remain in personal contact with each reader. “Each reader gets a customized version of the book. We also stay in touch with them through e-mails and on social networking sites such as Facebook,” she adds. This move has definitely helped bring readers closer to the Crazy Desi Book Farm’ily.

Nidhi recalls the words of a 20-year-old who read the book out aloud to his ailing grandparent. “He said that it made his Grand dad smile. It indeed feels wonderful to be personally in touch with the readers,” says Ananth.

In the future

Both Nidhi and Ananth are happy about response the first three editions have garnered. “The experience has left me as fresh as a ‘desi’ – battered from the physical strain of drawing and putting my foot in the mouth. But mentally it feels good to have persevered and completed four ‘epic’ volumes, not exactly capabilities of a lazy cartoonist,” jokes Ananth.

The team is now working on the last edition in the Crazy Desi Book series, which will hit the stands soon. The book is sponsored by Fortis hospitals to reach a pan India audience.

As for the next line-up of books, Ananth says: “To create a better tomorrow by mercilessly stabbing at civic, social and ethical conduct of Indians today. The anchors of all my books will be an animal protagonist, be about day-to-day life in India and use puns to pun-ish!”

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