In an age where a sense of humour is slowly turning into a rare trait, at least within mainstream media, it’s refreshing to discover a novel, satirical take on Indian society that combines the best of 90’s nostalgia and social commentary to get an instant laugh out of you. Pointing out the absurdities of traditional Indian society’s approach to women and how it blames them for pretty much anything that they do – case in point: ‘have breasts’ - the ‘Bad Girl’ images could not have come at a better time.
Born in Bangalore’s Srishti College of Art, Design & Technology, ‘Bad Girl’ first saw the light of day as a project for a course titled Visual Design in the Vernacular, by students Furqan Jawed,
Roshan Shakeel, Sparsh Saxena, Jaiwant Pradhan, and Stuti Kothari. Paying homage to the posters a lot of us in India grew up being exposed to that depicted (often unrealistically) what a ‘good’ boy or girl would do, the series pokes fun at a society that encourages a cookie-cutter idea of the ideal person. With the ‘Bad Girl’ posters, which eventually went viral on the net, the team shed light on how women are often chastised for doing things that wouldn’t have anyone batting a lid if it had been a boy indulging in the same.
“This course is about looking at vernacular design forms,” 22-year-old Furqan tells us. “We looked at a couple of educational posters from the 90’s and the style really struck a chord. We were given a couple of topics such as ‘illegal habits’ and ‘common rubbish’, but I thought it’d be fun to pick ‘Bad Girl’. Our professor, Alison, has been really supportive of this and it was, in fact, her idea to take this to press.”
“This whole exercise was about interpreting different visual languages,”
told Huffington Post. “In design school, we’re taught to do it one way, but what one ends up seeing around us tends to be very different. It was basically just a warm-up exercise and they might have intended it only to be an assignment, but I think they followed their intuition that was born out of everything they see in their environment, the media, and other such influences.”
“We pretty much decided to play on each of our strengths in the team,” Furqan tells us about the team dynamics. “Some of us did the sketches, others did the colouring. Sparsh did the back side of the poster that depicts ‘Bad Girl Possessions’ and I did the graphic design and typography. We then scanned the project and did the final touch ups before uploading it.”
Furqan admits that the team mostly sourced the content of the panels from real-life experiences.
“In the first round of critique, we had the expected ‘A Bad Girl comes home late’, ‘A Bad Girl smokes and drinks’ but when we discussed the project with Alison, she suggested we put in ‘Has breasts’ and from them on, we also came up with others like ‘A Bad Girl can’t make round rotis.’ Alison is really funny, and she appreciates sense of humour in all our projects; I’m really glad she was the faculty behind this one.”
As with everything that goes viral on the internet, ‘Bad Girl’ has been at the receiving end of a mixed bag of reactions. “The positive reactions definitely outweigh the negative ones, with 9 out of 10 people getting the brand of humour we showcased. Our project got picked up by Scoopwhoop, Chapati Mystery and Bollywood Gandu, and there were some really intense hate reactions we found, one of which went on about how whoever created the posters was a ‘crazy, fucked up loser’. The thing is, the people who don’t get it probably wouldn’t ever get it until their mindsets change. That’s perfectly okay with me, because this was just a small college project we did that just went viral because of Facebook.”
Other instances of negative backlash on online publications have been far more scathing and shocking, with aspersions cast on the students’ and faculty’s understanding of the rape language in India, and everything from their religions to their nationalities thrown into the mix in a bid to take them down. We at Homegrown are staunchly with Furqan on this one – these abusive reactions are rooted in a misguided mindset that can’t find it in themselves to laugh at satire that is perhaps too close to home for them, & you can’t help but wonder if these sections took those old-school ‘Ideal Boy’ posters far more seriously than they should have. Furqan remains amused at the outrage and hopes that they’ll be able to see the humour in the situation one day.
When it comes to which one is Furqan’s personal favourite bad girl, his answer is unhesitating, “The one where the bad girl goes to Goa,” he laughs. “The psychedelic background was my idea, and we all thought it was quite hilarious.”
Click on the gallery below for more images from the Bad Girl series:
[gallery link=”file” ids=”24550,24549,24548”]
His artistic influences are varied, he explains, and tells us about how a lot of them are phases, with his current obsession being Bjork’s works. As for what it is about the old Indian Book Depot-style posters that have made them so popular, he says, “When people think of art, you think of it with certain preconceived notions. Alison showed us how people have worked with vernacular forms and done meaningful work. We all studied these old-school posters and discussed how it’s a very Indian thing, and how there’s a fake level of idealism that is portrayed in them. If you look at some of the originals, you’ll see how some of them are very literal and they all seem to encourage this idea of being carbon copies of each other right from childhood,; you can’t help but crack up.. This style also works heavily because of the nostalgia element.”
As for whether his team plans on continuing with this series, or any variation of it, Furqan says, “No, honestly I think we’d just like to leave it as a college project. I don’t particularly want to make work only in this style, I’m heavily into typography and different kinds of work. I do want to do more meaningful work in the future, though, and I’m sure we’ll all find different ways to do it.”
Wrapping up, we just had to know about five tracks that, in Furqan’s opinion, that a ‘bad girl’ would be tuned in to. Between fits of laughter, he tells us:
I. M.I.A. - Bad Girls
II. Tove Lo - Stay High
III. Big Girls Don’t Lie - Fergie
IV. FKA twigs - Water Me
V. Nicolas Jaar - And I Say (Xinobi Edit)
Words: Aditi Dharmadhikari