Ever been so moved by a work of art that you wish you become best friends with the artist? Animation artist Gitanjali Rao uses this wistfulness to create a whimsical series of images, digitally manipulated to place her in the company of much-loved heroes and idols, from Frida Kahlo to Asterix. It’s a wish-fulfilment exercise that imagines her in a moment of intimacy, taking a selfie, with these long-dead or fictional personalities.
“Nothing I’ve ever done has got such a reaction,” says the award-winning filmmaker, who took home three awards at Cannes 2006 for Printed Rainbow. ‘Wishfies’ has gone viral and been shared over 1,500 times on Facebook. What strikes you about the pictures is their luminosity—Rao’s eyes are lit up like she’s really there, lounging on a bed with Madhubala or sharing a smoke with Satyajit Ray. “I guess that’s my suppressed acting instincts coming out. I had the original photo open on my iMac and I’d imagine I was in that moment.”
Rao used her skills as an illustrator to draw herself into paintings (Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, a Brindavan scene with Lord Krishna) and comics—we especially love the moment from Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. This series is very much a spontaneous, out of the blue kind of project for Rao, who usually works 16-hour days on her animation job. She’s also the kind of person who’d feel very self-conscious taking an actual selfie. “This is just my way of voyeuristically being in the same space as the people I admire.”
It takes some work with Photoshop, makeup and illustrations to achieve the results Rao has managed and she says the only thing she notices in these pictures the first few times she sees them is the faults. But then days after she worked on it, she saw the picture with Smita Patil and it felt strangely real. “Maybe like a forgotten love affair, these pictures will come back to me years later.”
Gitanjali Rao updates the series fairly regularly and you can find it here