It was a summer evening just the last year when I first came across Sreejita Biswas, also known as Solo. It was only a matter of time before I was mesmerized by her cats, and blown away by the variety and quality of her work. So, I was understandably excited when I got a chance to interview her.
The first question that I asked her was the story behind the name “Solo”. Apparently, her father was a huge Star Wars fan, and had named her after his favourite character.
Going through Solo’s works, one can immediately tell that she is a master storyteller. When I brought up this topic, she admitted to loving lies as a kid. “But problem is, given the nature of my lies, no one really believed in any of them. So I started writing them down. People not only started believing in my stories, but even appreciating them once they were written. So I figured out pretty early in life that I had to write.” She did comics in private, while she was still writing. She said that her move to illustration was a recent event – “I got into illustration last year after a severe BPD (borderline personality disorder) meltdown that affected my attention span pretty badly. It is so bad that I haven’t been able to read a full novel in a year now. Given the fact that I can’t read longform anymore, writing is even more difficult. Thankfully I didn’t turn out to be shit at illustrating.”
We went on to talk about the comics that she was involved with. She professed her love for Tau and the way the various artists tackled the sci-fi aspect. “I also love Sunday Comics – mainly because we do not have a brief or a boss or any rules to go by as long as it is a page long comic. I also love the team I work with for this one. Though Ojoswi and I make most of the comics, Karn has made a couple too.”
Solo has been involved in a recent graphic novel “Bangalore: A Graphic Novel”. This project involved a lot of artists based in and around Bangalore sharing what they thought of the city through comics. “Jai (Undurti) reached out to me and told me about the project and I knew that I had to submit a comic. Though I am from Calcutta, I have been in Bangalore for 6 years. Most of my “growing up” has happened in this city. It took a while for the book to get done, but once it was, it felt pretty awesome to know that our story had made it to the book among so many other submissions.” Her story (11th Main, 9th Cross) talks about everyday superheroes that we fail to love.
A person if often a reflection of her upbringing. Solo’s father, being a huge pop culture enthusiast, didn’t keep her away from the media. As a result, she explored the spectrum – from musicians to actors – being influenced and inspired by “every small thing”. She did agree to having a soft spot for David Bowie.
She has faced a lot of discrimination in the industry. She mentioned a few instances where she wasn’t paid for her work, and rebuked for criticising an “established” comic book writer. We also went on to talk about sexism in the world of Indian comics – about how some men stand up for women against sexism, while some don’t even “speak up at Comic Cons when they see a woman get molested”. She said that the harassment is rife in the cosplay industry, where the important men don’t even stand up for the women who were harassed.
These are some of the projects that Solo was/is working on – “I recently started a series called Solo’s Sadventure Time for The Health Collective. The Health Collective is an online platform that aims to spread awareness about mental illnesses. I do “funny” BPD comics because the reality of BPD is terrifying. As someone suffering from the Borderline Personality Disorder, you have to deal with intense, unstable emotions. It also means dealing with bad behaviour, uncontrollable rage, impulsive risk taking, paranoia, the the fear of being abandoned, learning to differentiate between reality and delusions and of course being an incorrigible defeatist.
But while an individual suffering from BPD goes through this roller coaster, most people tend to be terrified of them or think them to be unpleasant. I personally believe that one of the best ways to get people used to new ideas that are overwhelming or intimidating is to make them see the bright side of it. To quote a very wise man, “Always look on the bright side of life.” Apart from this, Ojoswi and I are working on a couple of graphic novels which should release by the end of this year.”
If you follow Solo on Instagram, you must already know that she has a lot of cats (who appear to be majestic). Solo shared their names – Merry, Pippin, Hyde and Kelso. “Their photographs don’t do them justice.”
Solo asked the budding artists to stop reading advice, and start earning respect through their work. “All advice is bad advice,” she quoted. She asked them to get started on their ideas, and start working.
The interview came to a close with the last question of the day – what was her perceived state of the Indian comics scene. She seemed a bit jaded, but hopeful. “Though Indian comics had become shit after the glorious 70s and 80s, it is good to see independent creators make more webcomics, put them up for free, take an initiative to change the mindset that automatically assumes that an Indian comic can’t be good.”
She is one of the first queer comics creators in the country and you can see some of her works on this issue here:
Some of her other works are: