Abhijeet Kini talks to us about the state of Indian comics, Dog-Otter creatures and why Warren Ellis gave him his seal of approval.
A sense of mischief and fun is always a useful trait to have when you are trying to do what you really love. It is helpful simply because during difficult times it helps you keep your eyes on the prize. Abhijeet Kini possesses this quality in spades and it’s something that’s quite apparent when you first meet him. As an illustrator of comic books and cartoons, Kini’s sense of playfulness strongly reflects in his work.
Kini is a regular illustrator for Tinkle comics, as well as for several national publications, and has also worked on many influential independent titles and characters including Angry Maushi and Gryll (check out his website for more of his work). “I have been collecting comics since I was two years old,” he reveals. “I never read children’s books or novels while growing up, I just stuck to comics. I also kept drawing them and never stopped doing that.”
Kini’s career has seen stints in various publications such as J.A.M, Mid-Day and others. “I did a lot of work for Time Out. I drew some covers and provided illustrations for certain stories as well. I did similar stuff like this for Mid-Day as well, where I wrote articles and still drew cartoons. It was something that made sense at the time,” he explains. However, his real big break came when Tinkle gave him assignments. “I started working for Tinkle in 2004 and I suggested some of my characters to them, but work on my own stuff happened only much later; like Defective Detectives, which Tinkle published in 2006.”
The last couple of years in particular have been quite successful for the Mumbai-based illustrator, with a lot of his creations getting published and receiving a lot more acclaim. “It (2011) was quite a good year for me. I had already done a lot of work for Tinkle, and Twenty Onwards Media wanted me to do some illustrations for Comic Con which was going to be held in Delhi. It was the first Comic Con in India, so it was really exciting and I got to meet a lot of people who I knew and heard about who worked in comics. I got to put faces to names and met a lot of fans as well. After that I worked on Uud Bilaw Manus! and Milk and Quickies which are probably the most path-breaking comics I have ever worked on. Immediately after these were completed, Comic Con Express (full report on Comic Con Express here) happened in Mumbai and I had my own stall there. It was basically one project after another and I barely had time to breathe!”
With the second Comic Con coming up in a few months, Kini is hard at work on some exciting new projects. “One of these is called Chairman Meow, which is a Pop Culture Publishing title, and let’s just say it has something to do with communism. The other projects are for Tinkle and these are one-shots. One of them is called 3 Diaries and the other one is Defective Detectives.”
What about the future of Indian comics? Kini had clearly grappled with this question before and he had his answer ready. “There is a criticism which many people have of Indian comics, and it is simply that we fall back on our mythology far too much. While mythological stories of India are fantastic and definitely deserve their place in Indian comics, it should be about more than just that. That is why it was really pleasing to work on Uud Bilaw Manus! and Milk and Quickies because they were so very different from everything that was going on. Milk and Quickies had some great stories that I really liked and it was fun to draw them. It even got noticed by Warren Ellis (of Transmetropolitan and Crooked Little Vein fame) who featured it on his site. UBiMa (Uud Bilaw Manus!)… was so crazy and out there and so very Indian. It is comics like these that would start making a really big difference to Indian comics as a whole.” Just moments after this statement, Kini breaks into a smile and normal service is resumed. He animatedly converses about his various interests and the small matter that he is getting married this month!
The future is very exciting indeed for Abhijeet Kini, and after seeing some glimpses of his upcoming work, it promises to be quite exciting for comic book fans as well.
Photos by Naman Saraiya