Published: 27th October 2020
Why this Bengaluru artist's comics on political issues with a hint of satire is a hit on social media
Aravinda Tegginamath started ButtSir Comics on social media during the lockdown and it has already become quite popular among the masses. We find out why
If you haven't already checked out ButtSir Comics on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, then you are definitely missing out on a satirical take on relevant political issues by an imaginary but mischievous character. Now you may ask, who is ButtSir? "ButtSir is the Secretary in the PMO. A sensible and a concerned man. ButtSir sometimes calls out the bluff of his master and sometimes just plays along. But he makes his point. For him, it is mischief first, Nation second," says Aravinda Tegginamath, the engineer-turned-artist who created this humorous imaginary character. The 41-year-old started ButtSir Comics on social media during the lockdown and in just over five months, it has gained popularity among netizens. Aravinda has spent several years working in IT and has a Bachelor's in Electronics and Telecommunications. He spent the first half of his career in Bengaluru and the second half in Boston. He began doodling seriously in 2015, following which he came to India and started his own IT company in order to put more time into art and doodling. "Making comics will always be my first love," Aravinda tells us as we speak to him more about his comics, how the character came into being and so on.
Excerpts from an interesting conversation:
When and how did you start ButtSir comics? What was the basic idea behind starting it?
It all started during the early lockdown period in March. When PM Modi announced the COVID-19 lockdown, it had resulted in a massive migrant crisis. During that time, I was following a Twitter conversation which spoke about the lack of planning behind the decision to shut down the country. I followed it and wrote down my take in the form of a conversation between the PMO and his associate in the run-up to the announcement. It was a three-panel comic. In the first panel there is PM Modi who is prepping for the announcement and he is asking if the plan is ready, and the secretary says, 'No sir, speech ready’. PM Modi, in the final panel, then wonders what they're waiting for and says, 'Let's go!’. I wasn't too sure how well it would be received but I went ahead and posted it on my Twitter anyway. To my utter surprise, in no time, the comic was shared widely. My guess is that people resonated with the comic in some way. It made me think what if I create a character that can constantly engage with the Prime Minister on various ongoing issues. In the next few days, I made a series of them in order to see if this character was relatable and whether I could go ahead with it. The response was overwhelming and there was no looking back.
Why is it called ButtSir?
The coining of the name ButtSir wasn’t my idea actually. I wanted to create a character who will have something to say on any topic, a character who is not a YES man who falls in line with his boss. When the first comic went viral I had asked my fans on Twitter if they would like to see more of such comics and suggestions for what I could name the character. One suggestion caught my attention, where a guy from Kerala had suggested ‘but sir’. I thought to combine these two words into one name. When I was putting it together I decided to add some humour into the name itself. So I added an extra 'T' to make it an emphatic 'BUT'. That’s how the name ButtSir was born. Now to set the premise of the comic, I made ButtSir a Secretary in the PMO and wanted him to be an ordinary-looking, sensible, middle-aged man. I also wanted him to be a concerned man but with lots of wit and sarcasm.
How do you go about creating the comics? Do you have a process each day that you follow?
Over the years I have evolved my process, I have a highly curated list of political commentators, analysts, journalists that I follow. Deciding on a topic itself is half the battle since there are numerous issues to look at each day. Once I decide on a topic, I let it manifest in my head — this process might last days and sometimes it could be a few minutes. Once I have a rough sketch in my head, I write and rewrite the actual speech bubbles down a few times. That helps me visualise their facial expressions. It also tells me whether this comic fits a three, four or five-panel story. Once I have the final conversational copy, I get down to execution. What the readers may not realise is that even the simplest and the silliest looking comic could also take a few hours. I typically wake up early in the morning, as it offers the calm and peace I need to focus on the creative. I have a strict three-hour deadline set for myself to get the comic out and ready to post before breakfast.
Are all your comics based on political issues or is there any specific topic you focus on?
All my comics are mainly political satire, I mostly try to keep up with the ongoing political issues, stories of the day. It also deals with the deteriorating standards of journalism, the prevalence of fake news, issues surrounding COVID-19 and healthcare, the state of economy and more. My comics have been mostly used for everyday situations and relative humour, rather than to make a political statement. Showcasing political issues in a one-panel cartoon is quite common nowadays, thus I decided to use the medium of comics, which is beneficial for setting up a joke and tell a story to make a humorous commentary of relevant issues.
You post on a lot of controversial topics, have you ever had to face trolling?
A political webcomic posted on social media is bound to get its share of trolling. But surprisingly my timelines are fairly clean and free from the abuse we normally would notice on such posts. I believe in ignoring the few trolls that come along the way. We should rather focus on the hundreds of people that love the work versus the few who are in disagreement.
Which one of your comics went the most viral and which one did you find the most exciting while creating?
I created a comic when Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Ladakh, shortly after the Chinese incursion, and made a speech but did not name China in it. The comic is a conversation between the Prime Minister and his secretary ButtSir about the issue, which was shared widely. A recent favourite is the one made on the sharp decline in the GDP in the past quarter. Both these comics are quite close to my heart because there’s no direct reference to the issue at hand and yet the reader knows what the comic is talking about. I like to tease the reader without revealing too much. I feel a comic comes alive when you leave a few things to the reader's imagination.