In early April, artist and animator Gitanjali Rao started taking selfies that had little in common with the millions of self-portraits on Facebook or Instagram. Whimsical and intimate, the Photoshopped images featured people she wished to meet but couldn’t – idols such as painter Frida Kahlo, revolutionary Che Guevara, and film-maker Satyajit Ray.
The project, christened the “Wish Fulfilment Selfies” or “Wishfies”, proceeded for a month before taking another turn. Now on her Facebook page, you will find Rao standing next to Phantom, the fictional crime-fighting comic character, or skipping down a road in Gaul with Asterix and Obelix. She has even taken popular iconography from different eras, like Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss or the poster for Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow-Up, and made them her own.
“I did not expect it to go viral like this,” said Rao. “This was just something I had started as time-pass and it has now taken a life of its own.”
The Wishfies have evolved over time. The earlier images showed Rao mirroring the actions and aesthetics of her subject. Now, she is trying to create her own identity in each image. “As a graphic artist, you sort of keep increasing the level of teasing as you work on a project. For instance, in Klimt’s The Kiss, I’ve taken the man’s place.”
Appearing in a black sari in most images, with her hair flowing long and loose, Rao has taken to experimenting with how she chooses to position herself in the frame. Even taking the place of the man in some images.
"In the world of animation, the identity of the character is sealed by the clothes he or she wears which don't change throughout. In real life I'm wearing a sari 80% of the time. Drawing myself in a sari is kind of graphically helping me identify myself," said Rao.
Rao's world, already fantastical, is steadily becoming more so with each selfie. "Ideas and convenience go hand in hand for me, but I'm still keeping this project as a challenge for myself," said Rao.