Comic Creations: Dalbir Singh
“It all started in Canada where my friend was starting a website that was supposed to discuss the art and culture of the diaspora”, remembers Dalbir. While there were several Sikh-centric websites, most were either religious or political, but this new site was about art and culture of Sikh diaspora. Having a comic would complete the site. Initially, the series was supposed to be named Karol Bagh (a Delhi neighbourhood with intense Sikh/Punjabi population), but then it got zeroed down to SikhPark, which had more zing. Dalbir was confident that the name would be an instant hit as it had a slight Western twist, which is what most of the target audience identified with. Dalbir who has worked across 4 continents and in 8 countries as a Creative Head had moved to the United States in the late nineties, where he continued to excel with his creative ideas and branding exercises. But it was post 9/11 when Sikhs were being largely mistaken for Arabs/Taliban, that Dalbir realised how he could use the comic strip as a stand for innocent Sikhs. He also wanted his comic to showcase Sikhs in a positive light where they were not projected as dumb people like so many ‘Sardarji Jokes’.
“Though I know that one single comic strip cannot change the perception build around Sikhs, but as the comic is evolving I have tried to bring in Punjabi/Indian nuances”, Dalbir points out. So what exactly has made this comic series a huge hit with the desis from around the world? Dalbir feels this comic is based on the life of a Sikh in the diaspora and brings forth the humour that’s drawn from the everyday life of an Indian settled abroad. And the comic strip is a huge hit with Sikhs as most of the followers on SikhPark’s Facebook page are Sikhs. “But the idea is still to educate non-Sikhs about Sikhs and to entertain those who are in the diaspora”, he adds with a smile.
Dalbir, who hadn’t seen the popular South Park series initially did face situations where SikhPark was constantly compared to the former and felt he should have thought of a different name, but then there wouldn’t have been an instant connect with the target audience. When he finally had the chance to watch South Park later, he didn’t find it appealing to his sensibility and didn’t get hooked to it.
To keep his series in the good books of the audience, Dalbir keeps the art simple and clear and the characters flaunt healthy sarcasm. Though there are a few people who will always find the work objectionable, the best way to avoid that is to prevent making comics that hurt any religious sentiments or offend people, though it does stifle one’s creativity. “The idea just comes while I’m having breakfast, when I’m sitting in a cab or even in a boring client meeting”, exclaims Dalbir who agrees that sitting and creating one comic at a go takes time. He usually manages to pop up a complete comic in around 2 hours though. Furthermore, to ensure he spends less time designing the comic, he has come up with a style that makes it much more comfortable to find time from his strenuous day job.
In fact, Dalbir is in talks with a producer to create the animated version of this series and adds, “While there is Chota Bheem etc. on TV, we do need a slightly older, sophisticated cartoon to cater to adults and young adults”. We asked him if he would want to draw other series on grounds like politics and politicians of India, to which he replied with a smirk, “For now I would like to leave that to other guys.”
Dalbir’s Tips for Visual Artists
1) If you are interested in advertising, you need to have a solid portfolio before you walk into an agency. It doesn’t matter if you have not worked on something interesting, what the Creative Director wants to see is your ideas and thought process.
2) If your client, agency or school didn’t give you that opportunity, then create your own brief, your own ads. There’s enough material out there for inspiration, enough ad blogs and sites that showcases world’s best ads.
3) A friend of mine started Portfolio Night, which is essentially one day of the year when you could get to meet the country’s top Creative Directors, all in one room, and have the opportunity to show your work to them.Think along on such lines.
4) Have a presence in the digital media, as creative heads are putting a considerable amount of time searching for new talents/opportunities. Besides, this is the fastest way to make noise.