Well we have all heard the silly ‘Sardar Ji jokes’ but now Dalbir Singh who is the creator behind the hilarious comics brings out his illustrations based on Sikh’s in a comical way to break away from the stereotype of Sikhs/Punjabis these are uploaded on Facebook and Instagram every week!! Kulwinder caught up with him recently to bring you this Exclusive Interview!
Where were you born and raised?
Born and raised in India. Grew up in Calcutta, but moved out of the country and worked mostly outside India.
Right, how would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Tall Lanky Sikh :)
How did you get involved in illustration? How long have you been doing it for?
Growing up in Calcutta when there was no PSP, Ninetendo’s and computers we would spend a lot of time indoor reading comics. It was also a great way to make friends as we would share and exchange comics with friends/classmates.
We had an entire collection of Disney, Archie, Asterix, Tin Tin, Marvel etc. This got us interested in comics, my brother and I then started making our little comics with our own Super Heros when we were 10-12 years old.
This eventually got us into the advertising industry which helped us hone our skills. Though never was an Illustrator in the advertising business, but the business helped in learning software which I now use to create SikhPark.
Apart from illustrations what do you do in your free time?
Free time? What's that :)
I run an ad film production company called Kiss Films. We are rated amongst the best in the country and have done TV commercials for top brands including Sony, Samsung, Nokia, HP, Toshiba, Chevy, KFC, Pond's, Veet, Dettol, Vanish etc.
Wow! That’s incredible! So Dalbir tell me what is the aim of your sketches?
I want the Punjabi/Sikh youth to be proud of their culture. I want non Indians to understand Sikhs. There has been a lot of hate crimes against Sikhs especially in the US as some of the haters mistake us as Middle Eastern people.
We want people to know that Sikhs are a largely peaceful progressive bunch of people. Of course there should be no hate crime against any race or colour.
Can the comic strip achieve it? Not really, but it does start a conversation and in these days of Internet and Social media every small thing counts. My last comic reached out to 36,000 people according to FB.
How did you decide on the name SikhPark?
Initially we thought of calling it Karol Bagh, because of high concentration of Sikh/Punjabi population in this part in Delhi. It didn't have much Zing to it. From Bagh we thought of Park and then to SikhParK.
How long does it take to create a Sikh park sketch?
Takes around 2 hours, I use adobe freehand and a MacBook. Since I have a very demanding day job (I make ad films) I have kept the style simple (and the South Park kind of flat 2D style is really easy to execute).
Usually I just copy the characters from previous SikhPark comic strip and then change the colour of their costume, move the hands and eyes and you have a new comic.
I heard you've never seen an episode of South Park, so how did you get inspired? Have you got rights to imitate the theme of South Park?
Never seen an Episode of South Park, just like I am sure you may not have seen an episode of Chota Bheem, a very popular animation series for Kids in India. Though I have seen the characters on the web etc.
Again, I don't need to see South Park to be inspired. I just have to look around myself, growing up as Sikh/Punjabi in India and then working aboard. I am sure South Park guys don't worry about what colour turban to wear or if they should touch the feet of a relative, or if there is a menu in the Gurudwara. SikhPark is based on Punjabi/Sikh insights and I am sure South Park is anything but that.
The initial style of the comic was loosely based on South Park because it was meant to be a spoof, but the content was always different. Since last couple of years I have been changing the illustration style slowly.
No, I don't have the rights.
Tell us about the main characters.
I started with the Kid. Still don't have a name for him or anyone except the guy with Spiky hair who is called Bunty.
Then there is the Grand Pa who is becoming the key character.
There is the big Sis of the kid. A lot of people would associate Sikhs with Arabs, so I had this girl who would be walking around in shorts, tights, or in a bikini on a beach to show that we are as normal as anyone else.
The kid’s dad works at SikhRet service.
Bunty is the guy with Spikey hair, mainly representing the Sikhs who do not wear a turban.
I also have 2 Nihangs, whom I have not brought in for some time hopefully I will soon.
Today we introduced Super Baba-Grand Pa in a new avatar as a Super Hero.
Do you make any revenue?
Not yet. I did have a T-Shirt deal with DesiThread.com almost around the time when I started. Made couple of 100 USD, but so far I am not looking at making money. The main goal is to make it as popular as I could.
I think a lot of your fans would like to wear the T-shirts! Bring them back! What are your other hobbies?
Reading and travelling
How do you form ideas for SikhPark?
I look at insights; if it is topical it gets easier like the one on the Ice Bucket Challenge.
What was your first sketch?
The first one was the kid creating a JOODA on a 'Men's Toilet sign'.
Now I look back and they were not half as witty as now.
Can you tell us what software you use?
AdobeFreehand. Though they have stopped manufacturing it, it is perhaps the best software around for illustration.
Oh no hope that hasn’t affected you. How's the support and feedback been in your journey?
Feedback’s been good; we get a lot of press. This is covered by 2 of India's biggest newspapers ‘Times of India’ as well as ‘Hindustan Times’. It has also been covered on ‘Time Out India’ and on ‘BBC Asian Network’ as well.
Of course there are always some people who find it offensive, but thankfully only couple of people.
Where can we see your sketches?
They are all on facebook. - www.FaceBook.com/Sikhpark
What's your favourite and worst SikhPark sketch to date and why?
Hard to say, sometimes I look at the older ones and wonder how could I have made it, it is not even funny. Then there are the ones which I really like but they don’t get as many likes on FB compared to others which I don’t find funny but they become instant hits.
Which SikhPark sketch would you like to recreate again and why?
Defiantly some of the older ones, as when I started the style was still developing.
Have you considered creating your own comic book or making a TV show?
Would love to do a TV show, but once I get some time off I am sure I will start talking to networks.
Any tips for people who want to start drawing cartoons?
The great thing about cartoons is that you do not have to be great at it. If you have a sense of humour, even a stick figure comic could become a hit. I would say, just go and explore.
Is there anyone currently that you would like to collaborate with?
Of course there has been a surge in Sikh Youtubers etc. So it would be great to team up with Superwoman, JusReign, Humble the Poet and the Sikh Street Style guys. I am also having conversations with Punjabi Music Artists (though not on a serious level) to do something together.
I’m sure so many of your fans are now excited to see what you bring out in the future. For now, who is the audience for SikhPark?
Going by the FB page mostly Sikh’s and Punjabi’s, on Twitter it is a wider audience and it's not just Sikhs. Though most Indian’s would relate to the humour as well.
Thank you so much and we from SimplyBhangra wish you all the best in your illustrations and we are hoping to see you collaborate with some Punjabi music artists!
Interviewed by Kulwinder Kaur Kainth