For ages, Mughal and Rajput miniature paintings have provided a vivid window into the past, relating tales from the lives and times of kings and queens. Now those contemplative royals are speaking up for themselves in a writer-filmmaker’s web-comic series, telling ironic stories of unfairness.

Bengaluru-based Aarthi Parthasarathy has created the series Royal Existentials using the multitude of characters and opulent settings of miniatures to articulate contemporary social angst. Putting words in their mouths, she has broken the characters’ enigmatic silence. Here is a sample of her tongue-in-cheek take on social inequality.

A web-comic fan herself, Parthasarathy was inspired by Wondermark, a comic strip series created by California artist David Malki that has Victorian-era drawings with funny dialogues added in. So, she set out to create something similarly humorous but utterly Indian.

For the series, Parthasarathy picks existing images of Indian miniature paintings and writes contemporary dialogues to them focusing on the joke and the punchline. The social commentary is incidental. “It started out as a way to just have fun with images,” she said. “After the first three, I suddenly realised that this is becoming very social, very feminist.”

Parthasarathy says she engages a lot with social and feminist issues that probably influence her comic project. “But talking about feminism can also be fun.” She has created 12 comics so far, releasing one every Friday, and plans to keep the series going.

Here are some of her queens, princesses and handmaidens contemplating their lives and futures.