Books

The zines to read

The written word. How do you get the best out of it? The world today is divided between those who walk around with hundreds of books and magazines on an e-reader, and those who still prefer to hold them by their spine. But the count of the latter is on the wane. Remember the fate of the once-popular magazines like Cleo, MacWorld, Gourmet and Vibe? All hope’s not lost though — luxury magazine, Vogue, brought out its 100th print edition last year. Following in the footsteps of the West, a growing tribe of print warriors in India are fighting to sustain the print magazine, the definition of which has evolved over time. It’s less rigid in terms of genre and more focussed, and even has a cooler version — the zine. “If anyone has a hot topic and wants to get it out to the readers in a short, quick format, one can do so with a snappy new zine,” says Nupur Joshi, founder of Paper Planes, a magazine subscription portal. Like Oh Nari, So Sanskari — a zine by young designer Annushka Hardikar, which took on society, traditions and our myths — or the latest edition of Showroom, which showcased vignettes of life, with ‘Some days’ as the theme. Bombay Underground, the pioneers of zine culture in the country, is also coming out with one on Amy Winehouse — with contributions from people who love her work — and another exclusively on cats! There are no restrictions to what you can publish in a zine, really. Here we bring you the three zines to follow, and the people behind them.

The zines to read

Curry

This is a magazine that already knows what the end will be like. Ten bi-annual issues and that’s it, confirms Shreya Dalmia. The fashion graduate from the London School of Fashion (with a specialisation in publishing) conceptualised it in her final year — a zine that would represent the modern side of India through bold visuals. “I wanted to build a crossover product, where both sides could feed off from,” says Dalmia, who launched the first issue of Curry (“called so, because it is the most popular Indian takeaway in London”) in February this year.

Flip through the 160-page zine, called Taste, and the topics — addressed by writers and artists from India and Europe — are what many conventional publications would keep a safe distance from. “We talk about homosexuality, we publish nude images... hard hitting content that is usually censored. But in the age of internet, censorship is a big farce. If you convey information in the right way, it becomes okay,” she shares, adding, “We also talk about religion, economics, politics and other sensitive issues through stellar designs. Someone has to speak about it, and art is a medium that we could use when no other freedom is allowed.” Working out of a small studio space in Kolkata, she, along with her team of two interns, is readying the next, Coming of Age, a pack of five zines (to be launched by the end of the year) with contributors from Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Nepal, and so on. The brand Curry also holds zine-making workshops and sells merchandise. “Currently, we retail out of around 10 stores, three in Kolkata and the rest across cities such as Kochi, Jaipur, Delhi, Mumbai and Himachal Pradesh. You can also place a request online,” she signs off. Details: currymagazine.live

The zines to read

Gaysi

An annual from the popular Gaysi family, the zine is five issues old and is still being brought out by a team of two: Priya Gangwani, editor, and Sakshi, the founder, who manages “everything else”. It is a tangent of the online blog the organisation runs because, as Gangwani puts it, “We thought we needed it to give permanence to some stories and articles.

From a small print booklet — “brought out with our pocket money” — to 130 pages thick, the zine has evolved both in size and content. “The first three issues were generic, mostly revolving around what it means to be queer in India, and pushing the boundaries of sexuality and gender definition.” More recently, for issue four, Gaysi collaborated with 28 artists across the country, and explored the concept of storytelling using graphic narratives. The latest was based on the theme of ‘desire’. “Desire is the very crux of divide between the straight and queer community. The issue explores the realm of queer desires, not from the perspective of sex and sexuality, but more from the politics of desire,” says Gangwani, who crowdfunds every issue, explaining that it “allows us to also collaborate with the community”.

The issues cover everything from fiction, poetry, erotica and interviews, to activism and politics, and has featured writers such as Parvati Sharma, Roselyn D’Mello, artist Balbir Krishan and the popular women’s collective, Kadak. They also organise movie screenings, social club nights and open mic talks, where “we talk about things that are considered taboo. It’s a bridge between straight and queer folks in Mumbai. Artists such as AIB and East India Comedy have also shown support,” she says. Details: gaysifamily.com/tag/gaysizine

The zines to read

Bombay Underground

Himanshu S and Aqui Thami — the ones who spearheaded the zine culture in India — are finding newer ways to grow the culture. Besides “consistently setting up reading spaces, with alternate material”, they organised the first ever Zine Festival in Mumbai earlier this year, and are now planning to take it across six cities. Many of their zines, such as Everyone is an Artist and Stop Making Friends, are self published. The duo believes that “independent publishing is their response to the fact that most publishing houses and bookstores are either ignorant of radical literature and zines, or deliberately exclude such materials”.

One of their popular ones is A5, which addresses a wide variety of topics such as gender, caste, cross culture, feminism and patriarchy, over the course of 24 issues. “Sometimes, we put out an open call to people contributing on various topics. Our 17th issue had 14 contributors, ranging from college students to professional photographers, to movie directors and more,” says Himanshu, who is also trying to reopen discourses that evoke a grassroot change (that once used to be the prerogative of small-scale printing presses, which are now fast shutting down). “Some of our zines also come from our neighbourhood projects in Dharavi. These contain a plethora of subjects — from rethinking girlhood and dismantling it, to documenting Dharavi from the perspective of the women there,” Thami adds.

Though funding is a constant worry, they are now working towards establishing a zine library. The duo also hosted the recent ‘z is also for zines’, a show with 100 zines from around the world, at What about Art in Bandra. Details: facebook.com/BombayUnderground/

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2020 8:35:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/in-the-zine-of-things/article20507358.ece

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