One evening in August, Rhea Chowdhary, a 28-year-old editor from Mumbai walked down a busy street in Kolkata, behaving most oddly. She carried a tattered baseball bat, wore her hair in tight ponytails with pink-blue strings of hair dangling out of them. She had on a pale face and dark lips, and nothing but underpants covered her bottom. Chowdhary roamed about the busy Park Street, calling out to her puddin’.
Chowdhary was in character, playing Harley Quinn alongside other characters from the 2016 superhero film Suicide Squad. It was a promotional event for the Kolkata Comic Carnival.
At the Mumbai Comic Con this weekend, Chowdhary will be dressing up as Harley Quinn again, putting in blood and sweat to make sure she stands out. “I know that many others will be coming as Quinn, and that’s the fun part,” she says. The best costumes win Rs 50,000, plus a trophy. “When competition is fierce, the excitement doubles,” Chowdhary says. On the second day of the event, she is planning to dress up as the shapely pink-haired warrior Pentakill Sona from the League of Legends video game.
TIME TO DRESS UP
Cos-players (those who dress up as their favourite characters from pop-culture) are gearing up for Comic Con season as well as Halloween parties this year.
Mandar Mhaskar, 21-year-old animator from Sion who bagged second place at last year’s Comic Con by turning up as the dragon Night Fury from How to Train Your Dragon, is taking it up a notch. He’s all set to cos-play as the insect-like Beetle Hanzo from Kubo And The Two Strings, a stop-motion animation film.
Another participant, 24-year-old Madhu Gudi is going as Morticia Addams from the Addams Family. A big fan of Japanese Manga anime, she first dressed up as Mouko from Skip Beat! at the Bangalore Comic Con in 2014. “I was crazy about Dragonball-Z and Pokémon since childhood. People thought that would fade with time, but then I discovered Death Note and life took a turn,” she says of the iconic supernatural-themed series.
COST AND COSTUME
Costumes aiming to win big need big investments. For Night Fury, Mhaskar spent 20 days and Rs 9,000 to put together his dragon. He stitched an oversized pair of rexine wings, adding a foam head with springs for movement. He then inserted pipes under the wings so it sat on his shoulders like a backpack. “Rexine is a heavy material and it made me feel hot, but the second prize made it all worth it,” he says.
Investing all that effort makes him feel closer to his favourite characters. “I never let anyone help me; I don’t trust them.”
For Harley Quinn, Chowdhary began early. “I started preparing for this year’s Comic Con since April,” she says. “I wanted Quinn to be as electrical as she is, so I did not compromise on anything.” Her Quinn costume cost Rs 5,000. She prefers ordering from e-Bay, Amazon and Ali Express. “The orders take 65 days, but the products are more dependable,” she says.
Other intricate characters, such as the Pentakill Sona, require creativity. For the Etwahl, Sona’s stringed musical instrument, Chowdhary used expanded polythene foam. “It’s a cheap material which is heated and molded into shapes,” she says. Other cos-players also use the more expensive thermoplastic called worbla.
“People ask me the purpose of investing so much time and effort into something that doesn’t even exist,” says Chowdhary, who has been cos-playing for the past six years.” For me it is the best way to connect with various versions of myself .”