Shivani Gorle, a graphic designer from Mumbai, India, launched Queens OnScreen to raise awareness about gender equality in the film and media industry. OCA got the opportunity to catch up with Shivani on the purpose of her initiative and her obsession with circles.
OCA: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Shivan Gorle (SG): I am 21, and I live in Mumbai. I graduated last year with a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media, specializing in advertising. I joined the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York last month to begin my Master’s program in Branding, and in the past year I have been studying, travelling, interning, and drawing. I am currently working as a freelance illustrator. I love cold weather and clean spaces. Sometimes I collect hotel room moisturisers. I have two tattoos – a triangle behind my ear and a cat on my hand. Pubs over clubs. Organic over ready-made. I am terrified of lizards.
OCA: What is your earliest memory of drawing or art?
SG: My earliest memory of drawing is probably the summer when I was 8 years old. I drew and painted an assortment of symbols on a chart and pasted it on the back of my closet, and whenever a friend would come over, I would make them choose which symbol they wanted me to paint on their hand. I think I was unknowingly running the smallest tattoo parlour in the world! I decided to academically pursue art from the 9th grade onwards, since my IGCSE and IB curriculum allowed me to choose visual arts over other subjects like history and business studies. That really helped me improve my creative thinking; the teachers would often encourage us to imbue our artworks with strong ideas and meanings. This journey also helped me realize that I was a creative person. After I scored the highest among my peers in high school, and by the time I had to start applying to undergraduate colleges, my parents did not question my decision to take up mass media. I will always be grateful for enjoying the freedom to pave my own path, as I have never been pressured into joining other technical and financial fields like many Indian people I know.
OCA: How did the Queens OnScreen initiative start?
SG: One day I came across a Netflix category called “Featuring Strong Female Leads,” and I felt like the film industry still had some work to do in the feminism department, if it had to ascribe a separate category to powerful roles played by women. Like many women I know, I want for the day when those same roles would be played by women in regular movies; we have never really heard of a category called ‘male-centric plots’. So I decided to celebrate these bold female characters by illustrating them along with their most powerful dialogue from the film. I want to bring recognition to those wonderful women who have wholeheartedly entertained their audience, but also touched their hearts in one way or another.
OCA: Why circles?
SG: I have a fairly huge thing for circles. You would have to take a look at my room to appreciate it. It comes complete with six circular ceiling lamps, a circular bed, a circle-based closet decor, a circular bookshelf, and two full-sized hanging hula hoops. I am a bit crazy about circles, and I wouldn’t want my queens to feature in any other shape. Also, when you go to my Instagram page, you will feel a great sense of OCD-fueled satisfaction from looking at circles, instead of plain squares. That was the general effect I was going for.
OCA: What effect do you hope to achieve through your art work?
SG: By shifting the dialogue around female-centric plots, Netflix is doing a commendable job, so I don’t think that the category ‘featuring a strong female lead’ is necessarily without good intention – Netflix means well by that. I am just contesting the category for the sake of the larger picture i.e. one day women won’t need a separate genre to be watched, they will just star in equally powerful roles opposite their male leads. I feel like we as humanity will have really progressed when we stop labelling these productions as feminist series, and instead include them as part of mainstream cinema.
OCA: How do you decide which character to draw next?
SG: I choose characters specifically from those movies that I have watched. I need to understand where my Queen comes from, her thoughts, aspirations, fears and longings. What I want them to have in common is their thirst for life, their desire to break through conventions and their ability to inspire. Diversity is just as important to me, so I alternate my features of Indian heroines with those from Hollywood and the West.
OCA: Is there any specific target audience for your work?
SG: With my work I hope to attract boys, girls, men, and women of all ages. Everyone should get acquainted with gender equality, whether it concerns men/women and their achievements, or how well these genders are represented by the film industry. Having said that, I do notice that the online publications sharing and writing about my work comprise of young people between the ages of 18 to 35. Whether it is the fun and bright style of my illustrations, or women’s real and reel life they portray, I think it’s safe to say it is working.
OCA: What is next for Queens OnScreen?
SG: In the near future I hope to eventually create Queens OnSreen-based merchandise, by printing these heroines-in-circles on notebooks, T-shirts, badges, and canvas bags. Things we could wear to show our feminism off to the world! I plan to see these either through online e-commerce platforms like Cupick, or print them myself and have them delivered through companies like PrintStop. I am still working that bit out.
OCA: Any anecdotes to share on responses you have gotten on your artwork/website?
SG: It’s been a real treat to have been featured on all my favorite news and infotainment platforms, including Buzzfeed, ScoopWhoop, Vagabomb, Mashable, Homegrown, Catch News, Feminism in India, Hindustan Times, and now NYU Shanghai!I would never have imagined that Queens OnScreen would garner this amazing response, and it only goes to show that the feminist wave is rising everywhere. Here’s hoping that this positive swell makes a real difference among women worldwide.
OCA: Any leaving message for your readers?
SG: Feminism – it’s not crazy, it’s common sense.