Inspired By Real Life: An Interview by MARISHA KARWA
Dalbir Singh’s Sikh Park
Dealing with subjects ranging from discrimination to pop music and politics to Punjabi food, Sikh Park, the over-a-decade-old comic strip, offers a slice-of-life perspective on the quirks of the community while ensuring a gleeful comic element.
Creator, adman and co-founder of production house KISS Films, Dalbir Singh, talks about the journey so far.
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Question: How did you start making Sikh Park?
Answer: Sikh Park was born when a friend based in Canada wanted a humorous element for an arts and culture online magazine for the Sikh diaspora called 'sikhchic.com'.
At the time, there was another new Sikh comic strip called Sikh Toons, but it was more focused on political issues. I was clear about what Sikh Park was going to be — plain, simple and everyday humour that the diaspora could relate to.
Q: Does Sikh Park imitate the style of the popular animation show, South Park?
A: When we conceived Sikh Park, we thought of many names, including 'Karol Bagh'. But we felt that these would not necessarily resonate with the overseas Sikh community. Also, the title 'Sikh Park' had a zing to it.
While I've not watched South Park much, I have to admit that I was copying their style initially. But when I realised that Sikh Park was gaining popularity, I consciously changed the style and over the years, much has changed in the illustration. The content, of course, is very niche.
Q: How do you manage to keep generating new ideas that are community-centric?
A: Initially, I didn't have to put much thought into content ... the ideas just kept coming to me. Also, when we started, it was in the post-9/11 days, and Sikhs were prime victims of mistaken identity. So the strip reflected a lot of these issues with content on immigration, travel and so on. In that sense, the content is in response to the issues that the community faces.
But this has changed a lot in the last five years ... ever since I moved back to India after living in different countries worldwide. Now, the strip has a wider appeal and jokes that the community can associate with irrespective of where they are geographically. But it is difficult to keep generating new ideas.
Q: Have any of these been inspired by real life?
A: Sure! I've been pulled out of immigration queues several times. Once, I was returning from New York and an immigration officer pulled me out saying they are doing a random check ... that's what they always say. And of course, they don't always pull out the brown-skinned guys, but also a couple of fair-skinned people. That flight got cancelled because of a snowstorm, but when I returned for the same flight the following day, the very same immigration officer pulled me out again, saying the same thing -- it was a random check. So I made this one strip, where the Sikh guy voluntarily goes up to the immigration officer and says he's there for a random check.
Q: Sikh Park is not consistently published ...
A: I run an ad production house full time, so it becomes difficult to publish regularly. There've been times when I've not published anything new for nearly 6-7 months and then to get back at it becomes particularly hard. But once I start doing it, the ideas keep coming, And it usually takes about two hours to do a strip.
Q: What future do you see for Sikh Park?
A: I think Sikh Park has big potential. It would be nice to see it as an animation show and I'm open to bringing in more writers and animators but that would also require a lot more money. Hopefully, I'll make a commitment to it in my 2016 new year resolution!
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You’ll find a rich collection of Dalbir Singh’s creations on the sikhchic.com homepage close to the bottom of the page, by clicking on the ‘Sikh Park’ box.
[Courtesy: DNA. Edited for sikhchic.com]
June 24, 2015
Conversation about this article
1: Chintan Singh (San Jose, California, USA), June 24, 2015, 1:30 PM.
I love Sikh Park and miss it when there hasn't been anything new for weeks / months. It's meaningful on-the-spot humor with an underlying positive message. I think Sikh Park could be made into a series of 1 minute videos or short comic books. These tools could be invaluable for Sikh kids growing in the West. Dalbir Singh ji - I would be very interested to help you or collaborate with you.