When I was an editor with a children’s magazine, I sat next to a pillar in office that had the image of a purple-coloured rakshasa who looked like he was about to smile at me. However, he was part of a story that did not allow him to be pleasant. He was supposed to be scary and gory and not nice at all.
As part of my job, I routinely edited stories in which the villainous person was described to be ugly and somehow, that seemed to be enough validation for their appalling behaviour. But who decides who is ugly and who is beautiful? I’m not going to be untruthful and say that it is only inner beauty that matters. Given a chance, all of us would like to be thought of as beautiful people. But what interests me is how we make these decisions.
When my mother was a teenager, she thought body hair was beautiful and used to oil her hands and legs to make hair grow. She was pretty disappointed that it didn’t work. It was only when she went to college that she realized that a hairy lady isn’t considered to be desirable!
Maybe it’s because I was (and still am) a five-footer in my adolescent years when beauty pageants and leggy women became a rage, I had a complex for a long time about my height (or the lack of it). It took me a while to become comfortable with my own body image and chuck those ridiculous platform heels. The time I’d wasted on teenage angst got me thinking about these issues. Learning to accept yourself in all your imperfect glory is a very hard but liberating thing to do. Aana and Chena is essentially about this celebration. Mayil naturally led to an exploration of these themes, it being the diary of a girl who is just reaching adolescence.
With Karimuga, I wanted to create someone with conventionally ugly features and see if he can emerge as someone likeable AND beautiful. I thought I owed it to that rakshasa on that pillar.