India is seeing a slow growth in the colourful cosplay community, who express themselves in creative ways.
Cosplay, if simplified from an outsider’s perspective, can be understood as the act of dressing up as a character from a film, book, comic book, graphic novel, anime, manga or video game. However, those from the community associate so much more with this practice. With India’s own annual Comic Con commencing in 2013, the fanfare surrounding comic books, graphic novels and other digital-visual arts, became more visible and it has since become an annual event that is now taking place in multiple cities where one can find cosplay on a large scale. However, beyond the Comic Con, in several parts of India, cosplay is slowly gaining ground, with cities hosting their own competitions and meet-ups. However, as cosplay has become a legitimate professional pursuit in many countries, India perhaps is still behind in this aspect.
Vijay Sinha, a well-known name in the cosplay community in India, shares his story of his involvement in the development of it, “The desire to see and help other cosplayers out was my main source of motivation. I don’t really compete while cosplaying (apart from just competing with myself and trying to do better each time); rather I spend more of my time behind the scenes, with organising and hosting events that want to entice and support cosplay culture overall. Indian Games Expo (IGX) 2017 in Mumbai is one of the major events this year that I will be involved with in terms of cosplay planning and approach.”
Riddhi Mehta, who has been cosplaying at Comic Con for years now, shares her journey into cosplaying, “I personally do it because of the love for the character and also the feeling when someone gets your character, leading you both to connect over gush about the show/ movie. So that’s the driving force.” Soham Samanta, an engineering student recalls that as a shy child, comic books kept him engaged and dreaming. He adds, “Then after growing up a little the fantasy of becoming the characters that I love most even if for a day made me go into cosplays.” Samanta looks forward to a meet-up to be held in Kolkata in eastern India next month.
Romi Mandal, who very recently began cosplaying after attending an event, says there have been both fun and difficult times to pursue what most people perceive as a hobby, as there is a lot of time and investment involved behind every costume prepared, bought or assembled together. Sinha also shares his observations on how cosplay has grown through the years, hoping for events as well as individuals finding a space. “While Comic Con India will always continue being a prominent place for cosplayers, both new and old, to convene at, I do hope other events such as IGX and Cool Japan Festival (CJF) will also see a lot more cosplayers coming in and participating, be it casually or otherwise.”
Play in the future
In countries such as Japan where cosplay is visible on a large scale, with dedicated cosplay cafes, regular meet-ups for cosplayers as well as competitions as part of conventions, other countries such as the United States of America have paved the way for cosplaying to go professional. Sinha says, “Cosplay in India is still largely a niche, as it is only now that we’re seeing more newcomers and events taking interest. While there are certainly professional opportunities out there, they are not super common and greatly vary on an event to event basis. Really, it all boils down to an event’s requirement and the sort of perceived value that comes with cosplaying.”
As a large number of people in India are yet to come to terms with the concept of cosplay itself, envisioning it as a professional pursuit is rather tough. Concluding on a practical note, Sinha states, “I feel, for our country, it is more important to grow the culture first before there is any real money to be made by it. After all, cosplay for us is largely still a hobby.”