How cosplaying in India went from ‘nerdy’ to cool

  • Jatin Varma, Mumbai
  • Updated: Mar 22, 2016 20:42 IST
​ Ramsankar Unnikrishnan cosplaying as Optimus Prime from Transformers (Photo courtesy: Comic Con India)

As the superhero movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice releases today, Comic Con India founder Jatin Varma writes on how cosplay went mainstream in India.

Cosplay or costume play as it’s called, has taken the world of Indian pop culture by storm. Dressing up as your favourite character isn’t something restricted to a party anymore, it’s a way of life, and for some, it’s even a profession. Cosplay is a performance art, where cosplayers wear costumes and accessories to represent a specific character, be it from comics, films, television and gaming or even their favourite politician.

On the eve of hosting our first ever Comic Con in Delhi, I was worried about not having any cosplayers at the show. Cosplay was still an unknown entity for Indian audiences, but I felt the show would be incomplete without this extremely essential, nerdy element.

Cosplaying has become mainstream now, so much so that the non-cosplaying visitors are the odd ones out at fan conventions (Photo courtesy: Comic Con India)

In order to ensure at least a handful of cosplayers, we decided that everyone on our team would cosplay, including myself. I felt this might encourage people to come out in costumes. Thankfully, in the end, we had about 20 to 30 cosplayers (other than the team) participating in the event. That was 2011.

In December 2015, at the fifth edition of our show in Delhi, we registered over 1,200 cosplayers for our contest and had an overall count of over 3,000 cosplayers at the show.

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The world over, cosplay is a standard feature of fan conventions and pop culture events. Cosplaying has become mainstream now, so much so that the non-cosplaying visitors are the odd ones out at such events.

And India is charting the same path. Over the past five years, as our shows have grown, so has the popularity of cosplay. And this popularity is not restricted to the number of people participating, but also with the visiting audience wanting to see more of it. Cosplayers have become celebrities at the shows, with everyone wanting to interact with them, take pictures and learn more about the characters. It’s a fascinating spectacle.

Reetam Mazumder cosplaying as Pyramid head from Silent Hill series of video games (Photo courtesy: Comic Con India)

The concept plays in to the larger theme of fandom, which has slowly made its way to India. Fans of comics, films, television and pretty much anything that can be considered part of pop culture, want to express their passion for the stories and characters they absolutely love. And cosplay helps them shed their inhibitions and express this love.

Cosplaying is not restricted to just our events or the cities where we host the events anymore. There are dedicated clubs and groups all over the country, such as the Cosplay Workshop India or the Hyderabad Cosplayers Club, to name a few. We now also have the first set of professional Indian cosplayers such as Nabil Khan, Ankit Pathania and Rohan Jain, among others.

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Educating fans about cosplay and helping them make costumes has been an important part of our outreach. With the support of our friends in the cosplay community, we have hosted various workshops all over the country, providing tips and tricks to budding cosplayers.

For us at Comic Con, the aim will be to strengthen the community and expand our platform so that more cosplayers can be part of our initiatives and events. And for me personally, the aim would be to get back in to the game and start cosplaying once again. I still have my Jedi costume with me!

Jatin Varma is the founder of Comic Con India. He tweets as @jatinvarma

Dress Up

What: Batman Vs Superman Fan Celebration Night will be held on March 26, 8pm onward

Where: Monkey Bar, Summerville, Linking Road, Bandra (W)

Entry (above 18 years only): Free​

Call: 096664 42986

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