Raj Kamal is a Delhi based 36 year old Data Visualizer, Artist and Photographer. Recently, he gave American Super Heroes an Indian makeover making it more desi. This includes Batman, Spiderman, The Hulk, Wolverine and Wonder Woman. This was loved by the viewers as they finally had Indian versions of the American Super Heroes.
The Yellow Sparrow spoke to him exclusively so as to give you all an insight into his creative mind!
Q. Tell us about your quirks.
A. My interest began with Batman in India. It all started with the thought of Indianizing all super heroes since we have seen Super Heroes in a typical American form. In movies too, we see American Super Heroes. Think of it, they can come from any part of the world! So, why should Indians be behind when they are no less. Also, due to my training in Art I’m used to observing characters a lot.
Q. What do you most relate to – an artist, a data visualizer or a photographer?
A. These three can’t really be segregated! I am a data visualizer who is trained as an artist and photographs too. Primarily, data visualization is the biggest love of my life though.
Q. Tell us about the creative process that goes behind making each superhero from your Superheroes series.
A. I’ll tell you this with the help of an example! I’m planning to work on Captain America now so I’ll retain the colours blue and red as people relate the most to these colours while identifying the character. The idea is to put on the dress on a simple looking Indian guy and make a few changes to it. Every character has one or more features which are most relatable to and so must be retained. After doing that, I create my own thing!
Q. What’s the ultimate guide for any rookie in your profession?
A. I think people should always know basic drawing and designing irrespective of the fact that they will work on the computer. Having knowledge of only Photoshop or any other software can definitely help but it is secondary as ultimately it is you who will draw on the computer.
Q. So, how does it feel when your work is featured on all the “what’s trending” websites like Buzzfeed and Scoopwhoop?
A. It is all very temporary! People’s attention span is very short. If something new comes out tomorrow then they’ll forget my work. Hence, I only want to keep working and improve my work. As an artist I know I might have done better work but this got famous as I was lucky at this point in time.
Q. Do you think that your work going viral in such a way helps you as an artist or is the fame momentarily?
A. Yes, the fame is momentary! It does feel good and gives you a temporary ego boost but doesn’t matter much. You need to keep working!
Q. Which superhero did you want to be when you were young and why? (Please say Batman ^_^ )
A. Back in Calcutta where I had my education, we were exposed to lots of comic books which had become an integral part of my life. Tintin is not a Super Hero but is Super Human like and hence was my personal favourite. However, when Batman was launched and I saw him on the big screen, it was evident that he had an aura about him! That was when I started liking Batman a lot.
Q. So, tell us about your journey to become a data visualizer. Why this field? What’s the most romantic part of being a data visualizer?
A. When I was in Calcutta I had Economics in class 12 and I did my graduation in Applied Arts. In 2004 I was jobless and was applying everywhere in Delhi. I sent my work to Times of India and they liked it, selecting me. So, I became a Data Visualizer out of necessity.
Two reasons why I chose this field were that I love data and that art, designing and data were integrated here.
It’s all unexpected! I always wanted to live in Calcutta but then came to Delhi and have been here for around 10 years. I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a long time in my life.
Q. Tell us about the creative process behind making an infographic!
A. The first step is to get maximum information about the topic. After collection of data you need to decide the medium of presenting it like say a video. Next comes deciding about the flow of data that is thinking about the sequence of the data which is to be presented. So, research, layout and actual implementation are the major aspects of infographics.
Q. Where do you see the Indian infographic scene going ?
A. Honestly speaking, the scene is very bad! Indians don’t understand or appreciate Art. People here don’t understand infographics, they only want to fill spaces without thinking of the content. Also, they want to save money and aren’t very willing to pay designers. For instance, I earn around 800 to 1000 $ abroad but in India I fight for even Rs. 10,000.
Q. What do you do when you run out of ideas? Where are your inspiration vaults?
A. No, I don’t! There’s always so much to do. There certainly are times when I don’t feel like doing anything out of laziness but there’s always some work. So while even interacting with people, art is going on in the back of my mind. Sometimes there’s an overload of information and I feel incapable of implementing them.
Q. Do you have any mentors?
A. It’s my father. He’s a painter and I grew up seeing him. Whenever I go to Calcutta and see his work, I see it changed. He taught me the need of constant evolution for an artist. My oldest memory is of waking up and seeing him work. We didn’t have a lot of money and lived in his studio. There was no money but there were tubes of paint and honestly I didn’t want anything more!
Q. What is your craziest creation?
A. This list is really long!
To tell a few, recently I got some panties and framed them. I was always busy taking off women’s panties and never observed its beauty till now. Some time back I made a dildo which was environment friendly and didn’t need battery or electricity to run.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
A. I’m enjoying my work! There are no plans, it’s an unexpected journey. I wish to get out of India as there is no freedom of speech here and it’s difficult to express yourself. You always need to conform to the ideas of the society. In the end I only want to be rich enough to not need to work for anyone. So that I can work to create and not for any other reason.
Raj gave the Yellow Sparrow a makeover too! ^-^