graphic novels

Seven creepy sights you should not have missed at ComicCon Bangalore

Our tantric paparazzo was on the prowl with her camera.

There were shivers aplenty and cold spots and sweat and blood at the Bangalore ComicCon this weekend. Here’s what we caught:

Sweet’s gone dead

Girls and women turned out at Cosplay not in demure, girly costumes but in kickass ones. Manga and Anime was popular as usual, as was horror. Here’s Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride for you peeps. Shivered us plenty.


(Photograph: ComicCon India)


Cold spots were a favourite haunt

Bangalore is known for one thing, the awesome weather. There’s only one period, from the second half of March and the first half of April, when the city heats up. And that’s precisely the period to which they shift ComicCon in Bangalore from a breezy September (we tell you!). The worse off were those who were sitting in panels on stage (including yours truly), with glaring lights on them, sweating while trying to swing the cool factor.

And then there were the unfortunate enthusiasts of Cosplay, who’d put on leather, rexin, wigs, paints and furs in order to look like their favourite characters. The attendees in their search for some relief, converged like a swarm of bees to cold spots, small, premium spaces in the White Orchid hall in Manyata Tech Park, where the air-conditioning was slightly more effective.  There they sat, on the carpeted ground, lounging.

“I’ve never seen Bangalore so hot,” said Jatin Varma, founder, ComicCon India, when I asked him why he shifted the event’s time to the hottest time of the year in Bangalore. “I thought it couldn’t get this hot!” Now you know, Jatin.


(Photograph: Ashwani Sharma) 


A scary crow indeed

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned villain to get chills down your spine on a hot afternoon. So it was that we caught this young man in his rather innovative makeshift costume, doing Scarecrow from the Batman comics. And then there’s Dr Octopus from Spider-man 2. Evil is nice, no?


(Photograph: Ashwani Sharma) 



(Photograph: Jatin Varma) 


The bloody iron throne

Treachery and murder, killing and destruction, were rather popular with the visitors of Comic Con. The Iron Throne was in the house thanks to HBO’s promotion of the latest season of Game of Thrones on its premiere channel in India. For the visitors that meant a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of sitting on the Iron Throne which is made of the cruelest swords in Westeros, keeps giving you nicks and cuts, and means that you will have to kill and murder and shed blood in order to be there. And you won’t believe how many were eager to.

There was an hour-long line outside the booth to go sit on the throne and pose with the sword. This guy, however, did the Delhi thing. “I cut the line and sneaked in,” he told me with a smirk. “It’s free but who will wait for this long?” Yes, my dear. Wonder if your evil tactics will get you approval from GRR Martin.


(Photograph: Shweta Taneja) 



The divination lady

Then there was this lady, who fell into the part of Professor Sybill Trelawney and quite enjoyed telling anyone who would listen (as the professor did to all her students in the Harry Potter series) that their tea drudge indicated that there was death around the corner. We love a little dark drama, don’t you?


(Photograph: Ashwani Sharma) 



Sale of indigenous comics? Ghanta only.

We love pop culture and art in Western movies, comics, cartoons and culture. We love Japan for its anime and manga. And we weep over the poor quality of comics coming out of our own country. Without trying them out.

“I’m tired of mythology,” said a reader, “why can’t they publish something interesting in India?” I asked him what he reads. The answer: Lord of the Rings. Case closed. “There is interest, but most of the people want to buy posters of the cover, rather than a comic,” said Kailash, who publishes comic anthologies under the name Pulpocracy and rues not buying poster rights from the artist, for then he would’ve made enough money for his business to survive. People come, spend more than Rs 10,000 each, but on merchandise and international titles. Most indie stalls are empty.



(Photographs: Ashwani Sharma) 


And then there was Obelix

A cool relief after all the horror at the Con, this man made us laugh out loud. Not only had he sized up for his Cosplay, including some natural sweat and beef (though boar would have been more appropriate), but his costume was perfect as was his chilled out attitude, which made you want to revisit the Asterix series yet again. He certainly brought a smile to our sweaty faces.


(Photograph: Ashwani Sharma) 



Shweta Taneja is an author with a weakness for the occult, the eccentric and the oral traditions of Indian myths. Her latest book Cult of Chaos is a tantrik fantasy based in Delhi. 


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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.