The pictorial satire of William Hogarth is regarded as a precursor to the development of political cartoons in 18th century England. And in India, the tradition of political caricatures became widely popular after the 1930s. But this soil, along with various multi-talented artists, has also produced some of the world’s best cartoonists. There are artists who have set a benchmark with their talent of expressing with hardly any or for that matter, few words and with the use of some brilliant punches and sketches.
This art is definitely a humorous instinct and in-depth study and the job of a cartoonist can even be little more difficult than the editor at times. There are some legendary cartoonists in India. Let’s check how many of them did you know earlier?
1. K. Shankar PillaiStarting with Shankar, what he was fondly called as. He is considered as the pioneer of Indian political cartoon. He started drawing cartoons since school days. His cartoons were published in The Free Press Journal and Bombay Chronicle. Pothan Joseph, the editor of The Hindustan Times brought him to Delhi as a staff cartoonist, in 1932 and continued as its staff cartoonist till 1946. He started Shankar’s Weekly, India’s Punch in 1948 and never looked back.
2. R.K. LaxmanHe is probably our most adored and eminent cartoonist, illustrator and humourist. His creation of the timeless ‘common man’ is a wonderful gift he gave. Born in 1921, he worked for various newspapers and magazines while still studying. Ironically, his application to JJ School of Arts got rejected saying that his drawings lacked “the kind of talent to qualify for enrolment in our institution as a student”. He began to illustrate his elder brother R. K. Narayan's stories in The Hindu, and he drew political cartoons for the local newspapers and the Swatantra.
3. Abu AbrahamBorn in Kerala, he moved to Bombay where he became a journalist in Bombay Chronicle and its sister paper, The Bombay Sentinel while contributing cartoons to Blitz and Bharat. In 1951, he went to Delhi on the invitation of K. Shankar Pillai, to work in Shankar's Weekly. At the age of 32 Abraham arrived at London and he got a job of a cartoonist in The Observer, where he changed his pen name to Abu.
4. KuttyAfter receiving a training from the father of Indian political cartoons, Shankar Pillai, he got his first big break in The National Herald in 1941. He worked with Free Press Journal and later was again called to Delhi by Pillai, where he worked in a number of dailies and magazines. He joined Ananda Bazar Group of Calcutta and despite not knowing the Bengali language, his major works are published in Bengali publications.
5. O.V. VijayanHe was a multi-talented cartoonist who is also a renowned novelist and short story writer. Shankar Pillai actually gave shelter to many aspiring cartoonists in his magazine being a fatherly figure. He was also an editorial cartoonist and political observer in various news publications like, The Statesman and The Hindu and later turned freelancer.
6. Mario MirandaFrom dreaming of a career of being an IAS to an architect, he was destined to be a hugely popular and respected cartoonist of India. He got his first break as a cartoonist with The Illustrated Weekly of India which published a few of his works.
7. Bal ThackerayBefore conquering Maharashtra and Bombayites with his brilliant speeches, Thackeray won hearts of readers with his Cartoons! He began his career as a cartoonist in the Free Press Journal in Mumbai. His cartoons were also published in the Sunday edition of The Times of India.
While these are some of the most famous cartoonists and illustrators, India has been gifted with many such talented folks and they have been loved and adored by people for several decades. We lost some of them like Vasant Sarvate and Sudhir Tailang in the year 2016.
But it’s their work, which they have presented to us, is everlasting and that makes them immortal.
Written by Medini Kajarekar
Walking through the pages to find home in words.