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On being awkward

Humour with a dash of honestyBhagya Babu and some of her worksSpecial Arrangement

Humour with a dash of honestyBhagya Babu and some of her worksSpecial Arrangement  

Bhagya Babu’s comic strip Awkwerrrd draws heavily from the Malayali ethos

Awkwerrrd doesn’t have a name - she is awkward and a Malayali, with a love for prawn pickle and beef fry. She creates comic strips like her creator Bhagya Babu. The Mallu Comics series, on Instagram, draw from Bhagya’s everyday life, the kind of stuff a lot us (Malayalis) can relate to. There is an appa and an amma, friends and family, “this is a typical Malayali family and the things that happen at home. These are inspired by family events,” says Bhagya.

The more honest and close to reality the comic is, the more relate-able it is she has found out. That may well be the secret of Awkwerrrd’s popularity. With 8,000 plus followers on Instagram, she is glad to have a found a community that shares her sense of humour. She retains a distinct ‘Malayali-ness’ which is the strip’s USP.

Always a doodler, she never thought that one day she would be doing it full time. “I used to draw and doodle even in college, I had no clear plan that this is what I would end up doing,” she says. This character took shape while she was in college, the response to those early doodles encouraged her. “We were asked to illustrate a topic in college instead I ended up drawing a comic...the response was encouraging and that pushed me to do more!”

The alumna of Toc-H school, after graduation in commerce from Rajagiri College, she moved to Bengaluru to pursue a course in graphic design. She later joined a start-up as UX-UI designer. During her stint there the Awkwerrrd strip started taking a more concrete shape. The ideas and inspiration could come from anywhere, they inhabit her sketchbook before finding life on her computer. Honesty, however embarrassing, she says, is an essential. Although she uploads her work across social media platforms, she is most regular on Instagram. “It is a better medium for artists.” She uploads the comics on Instagram, ‘fairly’ regularly, she says.

Bhagya realises the potential of the comic strip, taking cue from the likes of artists such as Alicia Souza, and she has diversified into Awkwerrrd merchandise such as coasters, stickers, notebooks, and magnets. “I plan to devote more time to this, it takes time.” She sees the comic as a visual journal, over time her style with the comic has evolved and the humour bolder. “If one playing safe there is always a filter, I am trying to be as honest as is possible!”

And there is a reason why Awkwerrrd doesn’t have a name or Bhagya’s name. “I didn’t want her to be addressed by my name because I’d rather people see themselves through the character than see her as a separate person. Similarly, apart from my parents who are called appa and amma, all the other characters aren’t given a name either. Because they’re a mix of many different people in my life like sister, room mate, colleague, and friends rather than one particular person.”

A freelance graphic artist, she designs wedding invites, branding and similar graphics-related designing. (Awkwerrrd is exhibiting at On Flea.K at Willingdon Island)

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