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Celebrating not-so-perfect body image with Miss Moti

Kripa Joshi, who grew up in Kathmandu, is the brain behind the character

world Updated: Jun 07, 2013 01:16 IST
Utpal Parashar

Comic book heroes and heroines don’t always wear capes and save the earth. Some of them are ordinary people who lead normal lives and some are animals too.

But it’s rare to come across a big, plump woman in her 30s as the protagonist of a comic series that aims to break stereotype notions about people with different body sizes.

That’s Miss Moti for you — someone who is plump but is precious as a pearl from within.

Those who speak Hindi and Nepali would know that the word ‘moti’ means both.

“I wanted to create a positive plump character who would not let her weight hold her back,” says creator Kripa Joshi who took inspiration for the character from her mother.

Joshi also borrowed from her own experiences of growing up in Kathmandu to create the character. “Having grown up conscious of being overweight, it was a subject that appealed to me,” says the London-based illustrator and comic artist who did her graduation in fine arts from Maharaja Sayaji Rao University, Baroda.

Miss Moti was born in 2007 when Joshi was on a Fullbright scholarship to do an MFA in illustration from School of Visual Art in New York after teaching art to school students in Kathmandu for four years.

The idea first took shape when she made a painting called Hippo as part of her thesis. It had a fat woman wrapped up in a towel standing uncertainly by a swimming pool while other slim women lay around in their bikinis.

On the border, the painting showed hippos frolicking in a pool of water in their natural surroundings — the idea was to show how unlike humans, animals don’t judge themselves and others based on looks.

“After that painting, I gradually dropped the idea of doing a series of paintings and gravitated towards telling a story about this fat woman whom I named Miss Moti,” says Joshi.

Comics were chosen as the medium to showcase Miss Moti to the world as visual aspect plays a big part in delivering the message.

To give the images a unique touch, Joshi took inspiration from the bold outlines and bright colours found in Madhubani art practised widely in the Terai plains of Nepal.

Her creator describes Miss Moti as kind, lovable, forgiving, loving, a bit lonely and insecure.

But she can be confident and self-assured once she lets go of her insecurities and can achieve anything she puts her mind to.

She is also liberal in her views and loves nature and animals — though nothing is disclosed in the comic series about her family and profession — Miss Moti’s companion is her dog named Kuku.

Ever since her debut, this “ordinary looking woman with an extraordinary imagination” has earned numerous fans worldwide through creations like ‘Miss Moti and Cotton Candy’ and ‘Miss Moti and the Big Apple’.

The series self-published by Joshi and available online has brought Miss Moti and her creator media attention, recognition and loads of positive feedback.

She remembers one incident at a comic convention when a plump woman bought three Miss Moti comics, one for herself and two to distribute in libraries, as she wanted children to know this positive character.

Joshi has also received some criticism for Miss Moti not looking South Asian enough. But though there is some regional influences in her comics, she doesn’t want her character to be confined by geographical restrictions.

The character’s success has made Joshi create Miss Moti merchandise. But to make her protagonist reach a larger audience, she wants to publish the series through a professional publishing house.

Her future plans include a graphic novel on her 97-year-old great-grandmother and collaborative work with her mother, a writer.