If you, like me, are often bit by the TL;DR bug, but are not ready to say your final goodbyes to the world of literature yet, then webcomics are just the thing for you. They are short and sweet, and make you feel good about reaching your reading goals for the day. But far too many of them are Westernized, and after a while the heart starts gasping for good old desi content.
This is where Sumit Kumar comes to the rescue with his treasure trove of desi cartoons. Bakarmax – ‘maximum bullshit’ is how the creator describes it! – is the answer to the heartfelt pleas of us fans of visual literature, a webcomics platform after our own indigenous hearts.
Every link on the website is a pathway to something fresh and fabulous. A great place to start out from is ‘Sumit-katha’, the backstory to Sumit’s career so far. You are immediately drawn in by the candid, darkly humorous perspective that he takes on life. Though not written in the comic form, Sumit-katha is quite as much an integral part of the webcomic as the rest of the panels on the website. The cynically hilarious self-deprecation that comes across in it is then reflected in the stories told through the comic strips.
Many of the strips are autobiographical in nature, and this makes the content strongly relatable to the reader. It is hard to choose between the different comics, but I ended up having a few favourites nonetheless. The strips reflecting Sumit’s life experiences certainly top the list. ‘Creative Insaan ka Career’ is a particularly accurate description of an artist’s life and choices, and ‘Mere Dimaag Tujhe Problem Kya Hai?’ expresses the workings of the artistic brain and how it may lead to (im)practical life choices! These strip are quick reads, but they leave you with enough food for thought to ponder upon for hours.
That is perhaps the most attractive aspect of Bakarmax; its ability to entertain and provoke thought are intrinsically linked. Sumit and the fellow writer-illustrators – for the webcomic is a joint effort where several very talented individuals make contributions – deal with a wide range of subjects in their comic panels, with varying degrees of depth and engagement demanded of the readers. There are strips that are purely to provide lighthearted entertainment – think Chinchin, an adorable crossover of the world famous journalist Tintin and the indigenous Chacha Choudhary, or Pillu the dog (and later the cousin!). Much of the content is meant for mature audiences, with direct sexual references and free flowing use of curse words. But then there are also strips that deal with subjects as somber as the Partition and mental health issues. In terms of relevance, Sumit and his team do a wonderful job; there is something for everyone to enjoy on the website.
The only ‘ouch’ moment I faced in my perusal of the website came in terms of the languages used. There is considerable use of Hindi in the comic strips, and while this no doubts adds to the authenticity of the strips, it becomes exclusionary in nature for a significant part of the netizens of India. As a non-native Hindi speaker, I had to struggle quite a bit to recall my rusty knowledge of the language while trying to enjoy the comics.
Bakarmax gives you the scope to explore your own inclinations towards illustration and graphic novel writing. Sumit provides opportunities to intern or work with him in various capacities, as well as conducts comic making workshops called DELHI DOODLE regularly. The startup has also come up with its own line of comic based merchandise including posters, mugs and T-shirts, and while the pricing can be slightly on the steeper side, you get some really funky stuff along with the satisfaction of knowing that you helped out a (fellow?) artist. So go ahead, explore the world of Bakarmax, and happy reading to you!