While doing research for this interview, I found a picture of Abhijeet Kini. He was wearing a Beavis and Butt-Head t-shirt holding a copy of his comic book Angry Maushi speaking at a Comic-Con. He certainly looked like an interesting man to talk to. My conversation with him confirmed this. Here are the highlights.
What made you want to go down this particular career path?
I was exposed to that medium from a young age. It creates a lasting impression on you. It became an ambition to get into it. I used to doodle from a very young age, which helped me build my portfolio quickly. Even though not a lot of people were aware of the stream at the time, I think a career in any art field is primarily passion-driven, people's perception is secondary.
How did you get your start in this career?
I started freelancing in the 11th or 12th. I used to work for this magazine called JAM (Just Another Magazine). They would utilize young collegian and post-college writers as the magazine catered towards a college audience; that was the whole vibe. They had a lot of campus jokes and campus-based interviews, etc. I used to doodle and cartoon for them, it was a fun time.
Then I started interning with and drawing for Midday Multimedia when I was in my first year of degree college. So my early exposure came while I was in college itself and my freelancing started back then as well. Then I built my portfolio and could pitch my work to other magazines.
Comics being my first love, I started drawing for Tinkle comics in 2004, about a year after I graduated and I have been with Tinkle for the last 16 years. I was employed with an animation studio, a gaming company, but, I used to do my comics on the side, and then came a time when I decided, I’m going to go full-time freelance, full time on my own and that’s when I started my own gig, I think, in 2008.
You mentioned starting your own gig. What inspired you to do that?
A 9-to-5 job, even in a creative field, still makes you work within certain boundaries and policies. When you are on your own, you can decide on your deliverables and commercials. More importantly, you have the freedom to take up any project you desire. So after learning a lot at studios, I finally decide to take the plunge because if you are creative, you want to pick and choose projects and quote your own prices. That drives you to go out on your own, but that early exposure with offices and studios is very essential for anyone starting out.
Did you face any difficulties in starting your own studio?
The difficulties were mainly to do with the pitching aspect. Since you portray yourself as a studio, people want to know what kind of work you have done, so you have to put all your best work together and pitch it to them. Getting everything together in the first place is a little challenging because we are basically a team of two, me and my wife Diksha, handling the studio.
So, you do not have any sort of formal education in cartooning?
No, I am self-taught. I truly believe that cartooning cannot really be taught in a college. It can be a crash course or a workshop, I do take a lot of online workshops, now that the lockdown is happening. But primarily, cartooning is something that should either be self-taught or instinctive because, as opposed to other mainstream forms of art, cartooning is something that is dependent on your own perception. I did do a 1-year diploma in 2D traditional, classical animation after my BMM, but overall my cartooning is self-taught.
You're self-taught but did you draw any inspiration from media you consumed?
Yes, absolutely. I remember my earliest exposure to comics was Asterix and MAD magazine. MAD has been a huge influence on my take on humor and satire. I loved the artists in Tinkle, of course, I was a huge fan of Tinkle, so drawing for them was a dream come true. Tintin, of course, was another classic. Mario Miranda also inspired me a lot, especially with the Indian crowd scenes. I must add these comics have actually helped me understand the basics of how layouts work, what kind of styles exist, how exaggeration is done, etc.
Do you have a project that you are more proud of than the rest?
I think my character Angry Maushi, mainly because of the little bit of a cult following that she has today in the Indie comics scene. We keep getting asked when the next issue is going to come out, old reprints are still selling quite decently and, the character herself has become a symbol. I pitch Angry Maushi as a heroine who does not have to wear spandex or get objectified, she wears a nauvari sari and can still kick ass. That whole visual, that whole perception of the female superhero and an Indian one at that, resonates with a lot of people, so I am super proud of that creation of mine.
And getting an Indie audience must be fairly hard 'cause I presume they are rather picky.
They are, they are. But most of it has to do with exposure at Comic-Con and other fests like the Indie Comix Fest. These fests are where you will find the Indie content. They are picky, but at the same time, if the content strikes a chord with them, they don’t think twice about picking it up.
Considering the importance of comic con to your business, does the absence of events due to the pandemic impact you?
Yes, it does. Covid has impacted the entire scene in general. Not just comics, the entire art scene. However, because of the lockdown, people are more exposed to social media. We were reaching out to more people that way. The challenge then was how to effectively use these social media platforms to reach out. We also converted most of our comics into e-comics that people could buy and download at half the price. This worked out pretty well for us as we didn’t have to spend on printing or shipping and, the audience got their comics at half the price. We realized, even if the events weren't happening, we could use social media to reach out to our audience and even reach out to more people. In those first three months, that was a challenge but, I think everyone did alright.
Last question, what are your future plans for the studio?
To keep coming out with good content, it can be anything from a comic to a series of workshops. Something that people connect with, something that inspires more people to become comic creators, we need more of them, the more artists the better.
To get your own copies of Abhijeet Kini's e-comics visit the shop section of our website.
Hello, I am Kaihan Behramkamdin, a second year college student who enjoys consuming music, memes and mediocre cup noodles at 5am. I'm also very tall; hopefully that makes the articles more interesting.
Disclosure: This article may contain affiliate links. This means that we may earn a certain fee for any purchases made through the link without any extra cost to you.