Not too way back, when the tv field was nonetheless a rarity in an Indian family and the web an elusive dream, individuals would flip to Comics to quench their thirst for tales and fantasies. Whereas names like Chacha Chaudhary, Nagraj, and Champak won’t ring a bell to kids in the present day, studying these desi comics was an integral a part of childhood for millennials. But, the notion of creating a profession in comics would elevate many eyebrows.
Comics have been a gateway from the drudgeries of life, a pleasurable pastime, not a severe pursuit the place one might consider making a profession. When Jatin Varma determined to deliver the idea of comics conference to India, he didn’t achieve this out of financial aspirations. To dive into an unchartered panorama is at all times a dangerous enterprise, but it surely was Jatin’s unadulterated love for comics and storytelling that satisfied him to take the chance.
On a shoestring finances however excessive on confidence, Varma organised the primary Comedian-Con, in a bustling Baazar of New Delhi, and the remaining, as they are saying, is historical past. Little did Varma that his private odyssey will swiftly remodel into one of many largest and most-awaited cultural fests throughout the nation. Barring a quick interlude when the pandemic introduced the world to a standstill, Comedian-Con has continued its upward trajectory at unprecedented momentum. The twelfth version of the fest will kickstart in Bengaluru subsequent month, earlier than spreading its tentacles to cities like Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Mumbai over the course of the following few months.
We spoke to Varma in regards to the enterprise of Comedian-Con India, the challenges of organising an occasion of such a grand scale, and the way forward for comics in India.
How did you get into the comics enterprise? Is it one thing you at all times wished to do? Or it was purely unintentional?
It was not utterly unintentional, I at all times wished to be in publishing and comics being one thing that I understood nicely. This led to the try to publish a graphic humour journal known as Random. And that kicked off the journey to the place I’m presently.
Did the expertise of making reveals like Dare to Date & Love Internet for the massive media home enable you to in any approach?
As a lot as engaged on these reveals was enjoyable and thrilling, to not point out, helped financially maintain all different inventive efforts. It principally made me be very sure that I might not want to create one thing for a 3rd get together, that I ultimately don’t have any management over. I’m very grateful for that have and blissful that it motivated me to do one thing utterly alone.
Inform us the challenges you needed to overcome to arrange the primary version of Comedian-Con in 2011. Although there’s no dearth of comics followers, this idea was fairly new to India. What methods had you employed to lure the youth of the nation?
It was an enormous problem, each me & my workforce at the moment, had no expertise in organizing large-scale occasions, however we knew how you can publish stuff and we had a good understanding of the comics scene in India at the moment. So, the occasion was created as a private experiment fairly than an precise enterprise effort.
We have been probably not certain how many individuals would possibly flip up, so we used a venue (Dilli Haat) that on any given weekend already had guests. Social media was new at the moment, with much less toxicity and extra attain, we leveraged it as a lot as doable, as there have been restricted funds to spend on publicity. Plus lots of effort was spent on explaining what this occasion was, not everybody understood the idea initially. However all the effort paid off, it clicked, we had an incredible turnout and response and that received us motivated to do a second present in Mumbai instantly. And the remaining is historical past!
How troublesome it was to get new sponsors on-board within the preliminary years?
It’s nonetheless troublesome at occasions. However sure extra so initially, when to be sincere, the present was additionally discovering its identification. We didn’t actively hunt for sponsorships initially as we weren’t certain how you can combine sponsors into the occasion. Internationally, sponsorships for such occasions are curated very in a different way, than how it’s carried out in India. After the preliminary few years, we constructed the best way for sponsors to return in and by that point we have been actively being engaged by manufacturers as nicely.
Certainly one of them was Maruti Suzuki, who received on board very early on and truly supported all our efforts and experiments. It’s been an incredible relationship with them, over the previous a few years.
Comedian-Con India now has expanded to cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, and Ahmedabad final yr. How do you guarantee every version of the competition is considerably distinct and distinctive?
The general idea and plan stay the identical, however in every occasion, we get native creators and companies that add to the flavour. We generally additionally incorporate native acts that make the occasions extra distinctive. However our goal is to deliver the identical expertise to followers everywhere in the nation in order that nobody is lacking out on something.
How has Comedian-Con advanced through the years?
It has advanced many folds, now we have a novel model identification now and it’s an enormous pop-culture tent, the place all types of fandoms come collectively. On the coronary heart of it, is comics and that may stay so perpetually, however the tent has expanded through the years to incorporate all types of parts from popular culture. Be it digital content material, streaming, gaming, indie movies and so forth.
We’re additionally now a clearly outlined youth occasion, whereas we’re family-friendly, our core viewers is between the ages of 18-36, they usually drive what occurs on the occasions.
Are there any plans to broaden this challenge to Tier-2 cities throughout the nation?
As of now we nonetheless have a couple of large cities to cowl, we’ll in all probability try to create a plan for smaller cities sooner or later.
Since that is purely a fan-led enterprise, inform us in regards to the significance of innovation and experimentation, to make sure followers have one thing completely different to sit up for yearly.
It’s on the highest of our minds 24/7 and this is a pretty big occasion, which implies there should be incremental adjustments/enhancements annually. It’s a massive ship that needs to be steered slowly in numerous new instructions. So, we begin months prematurely by attempting to determine what new will be a part of the occasions every season. A few of it’s below our management, and lots of it is dependent upon our companions corresponding to studios, publishers, and creators.
However we attempt annually to experiment with one thing new and put up the pandemic, there’s a sense of urgency in us to do extra occasions and broaden additional.
How do you see the trajectory of conference tradition on this nation within the subsequent 5 years?
Within the subsequent 5 years, I hope to have a everlasting version in each main metropolis within the nation. That is one thing we hoped to do pre-pandemic, however now that issues are again to regular, we’re again on this objective. That is extraordinarily key to our progress and future prospects.
The place do you need to take Comedian Con within the subsequent ten years?
That’s approach too far! Something that far can be pure conjecture, I simply hope to be studying much more comics then.
That are your favourite Indian comics?
I grew up studying Amar Chitra Kathas, and Diamond & Raj Comics and I nonetheless love all of them. However, I like a few of the new impartial comics which have been popping out over the previous few years, from the likes of meta-desi comics, chariot comics, Holy Cow, Bullseye Press, Yali Goals and lots of extra.
What do you consider the relevance of Indian classical comics, like Nagraj, Chacha Choudhury, and Tinkle, within the trendy age? Do they nonetheless maintain the identical attract amongst Indian audiences?
They do, but it surely’s a distinct scene and viewers now. A much less easy occasions, the newer followers are actually fascinated and the nostalgia of the older followers additionally drives their curiosity. I’m fairly hopeful that these iconic comics will proceed to be round for a really very long time.