Monday, March 4, 2024

‘Cosplay doesn’t feel like just an exclusive hobby like it used to be in Hyderabad’

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With Comic Con just around the corner for the Hyderabadi’s, we have with us Zohair Khan, Hyderabad’s cosplayer, sharing his association with the city for our weekly segment of Hyderabond.
Passion, emotion, statement, and movement—all of it goes hand-in-hand and unites when we talk about the shared love of cosplay. Talking of cosplay, Hyderabadi’s are all set to witness India’s biggest cosplay event—Comic Con on January 27 and 28.
Today for our special weekly column of Hyderabond, we have  Hyderabad’s very own cosplay artist, Zohair Khan, also known by the moniker Kiwi Lemon Sorbet, for those who follow the cosplay scene in Hyderabad. Initially, he used to be a trainer and teacher, and has also worked for various organisations over the years. Though both his parents are Hyderabadis, back in the 90’s, they moved overseas for work. And so, he was born and raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; he moved to Hyderabad in 2010 and has been here since then.
Also a financial analyst (remotely) for a company in the US, when he first arrived in Hyderabad, he looked back and said, “I remember the vibes of being in the old Hyderabad when the hustle and bustle of the city was confusing for someone like myself. But there was so much life in it, and being back here felt like being back home. These days, the city would be unrecognisable to the old me in comparison. The focus for most people has shifted from the old city towards modern places like Gachibowli, and Hitech City. There are more people moving from across India to Hyderabad. We’ve now developed a 24×7 culture where the city doesn’t sleep at night. So much has changed.”
He has always been a geek and is proud to call himself one. Ever since his childhood, he has always enjoyed all forms of media, such as anime, comic books, cartoons—you name it. It was in 2015 that he attended his first-ever Comic Con, where he got to witness hundreds of amazing cosplayers bring to life so many of his favourite characters. So impressed by their costumes and the way they delved into becoming the characters themselves, naturally someone who loves the spotlight, cosplaying felt like something that was right up my alley.
“Upon finding out from my brother that Hyderabad has its own convention, I jumped at the chance to take a flight back and do my first cosplay at the Hyderabad Comic Con 2015. Ever since, I’ve added a score of cosplays to my repertoire by upskilling myself in foam smithing, prop making, stitching, and sewing. I’ve been fortunate enough to win several accolades over my cosplay journey, including the coveted Grand Prize at the Hyderabad Comic Con 2019.” Initially, he didn’t understand what cosplaying really entailed. Back when he started, he recalls going to a tailor, who would reluctantly stitch a suit he could wear at a Comic Con, and this made him feel like an ‘impostor’. “I had to learn the art of making my own costumes through various tutorials posted by pro cosplayers from across the world. I figured out through help from other cosplayers in India where I could procure materials and equipment, which now help me come up with cosplays that wow audiences at the Comic Cons. Another thing that I had to deal with was getting my immediate circle of friends and family accustomed to this new and weird hobby. It’s still weird to them, but back when this was new, it seemed childish and juvenile to almost everyone. But over time, with the upgrade in my costume quality and the accolades and recognition I’ve received, people have become more accepting of my passion.”
He got to witness the cosplay scene in Hyderabad since its infancy, and “I can honestly tell you that there has been nothing but growth. Growth in the number of cosplayers; the number of conventions that give cosplayers a chance to don their costumes; the quality, in general, of cosplays. Cosplay doesn’t feel like an exclusive hobby like it used to. We’re seeing an influx of so many young cosplayers each year, thanks in part to Comic Con. We’re also seeing a rise in the number of seasoned cosplayers who call themselves professionals, and many more companies are hiring such cosplayers for gigs. It’s honestly more mainstream now.”
Zohair joined the Hyderabad Cosplayers Club in 2015, after he first started cosplaying. And since then, there’s been looking back, being an active member since, where he proved my mettle in cosplay by winning a few local competitions. Eventually, he was able to be a significant part of the club, which saw him rise to the occasion and be made one of the admins of the club. Today, he’s equally managing the club alongside others since 2017 and has been representing Hyderabad every chance, be it through workshops, conventions, or meet-ups.
The cosplay scene in Hyderabad, he says, is dynamic and an evolving community, fostering creativity but, more importantly, a sense of camaraderie and togetherness. “It is probably the most fun experience being part of this wonderful scene in Hyderabad, with a shared appreciation for storytelling and character portrayal through costumes and performances. The quality of costumes and cosplays is ever-growing, with more people joining in on the fun. I have personally seen a number of people show interest in learning and putting in the effort to make their own costumes. And the appreciation and adoration we receive from general audiences and convention attendees is beyond comparison.”
Proud of being a part of the community, and with Hyderabad not being left behind any other city in the world, he shares, “Something to like about Hyderabad is its rich cultural heritage, reflected in its architecture, cuisine, and traditions. The city offers a blend of history and modernity, making it a vibrant place to experience diverse experiences. On the flip side, traffic congestion and infrastructure challenges can be a downside for some residents and visitors. Managing the city’s growth while maintaining it’s charm presents ongoing challenges in terms of urban planning and development.”
With tonnes of opportunities for creative people in all kinds of sectors, he shares that the presence of major multinational corporations, tech parks like Hitech City, and renowned educational institutions creates a conducive environment for professional growth and networking. “I’ve been leveraging Hyderabad’s resources, industry networks, and growth sectors to significantly support my career advancement. It also helps that this is a very affordable city to live in in comparison to other cities. Over the years, cosplayers from across the country have attended the Hyderabad Comic Con, and the city and the Hyderabad Cosplayers Club have been home to them. The one thing that’s amazing is the inclusivity of the cosplay scene in Hyderabad. Everyone who attends is a part of the cosplay family. Everyone is included in the fun, the food, the travel, the procrastination, and everything in between. I’ve been happy to be a part of this special hospitality from our city, and it’s something we are uniquely known for.”
Hyderabad, to him, is all about culture, vibrance, history, food, and these days, modernity. The Hyderabadi dialect, he signs off, saying, “It is now popular across all social platforms. It’s a unique identity for Hyderabadi’s who are proud of everything the city has to offer and vice versa. Things like Charminar and Biryani are a representation of our very being, including mine. What I’m most proud of as an aspect of Hyderabad is it’s inclusivity. The city makes you feel like you’re home no matter where you’re from.”
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