Monday, 9 January 2017

Cartoonists: The Heart of Every Newspaper

Mornings are incomplete without a tea and a newspaper for many of us. What is it that completes a newspaper? Well, there are many elements off course. But there is something no newspaper reader misses. While editorials bring out momentous issues in a more serious way, there is a small column of cartoons, which admittedly steals the limelight. Every news story is written precisely with hard facts. Cartoons are also based on facts regarding the issues in society but they have a sarcastic representation. It is generally referred to as editorial cartoons of political satire. They are the heart of the newspaper.

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 Pillai

Starting 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.

He helped many young cartoonists by giving them an opportunity to work with him and presented great talent to India. Unfortunately, during the emergency, he had to close down the magazine after which he devoted his niche to making children laugh. Being honored with various awards he is often remembered for setting up Children's Book Trust (1957) and Shankar's International Dolls Museum (1965).

2. R.K. Laxman

He 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.

Bal Thackeray, another great cartoonist was his colleague at his first full-time job at Free Press Journal. In 1951, Laxman joined The Times of India, Mumbai, beginning a career that spanned over fifty years and gave birth to the cartoon column ‘You said it’ which was immensely popular and the illustrations are still relevant to today’s world. Although he left us on the republic day of 2015, his unique style is undying.

3. Abu Abraham

Born 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.

Later he also worked with The Guardian and after returning to India worked with Indian Express. As a mark of the man, his cartoons which were an attack on corruption, were an assortment of simple lines that stood out for their directness of expression augmented by arresting punch lines that never missed the mark.

4. Kutty

After 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.

This was due to his direct and simple visual expression with which he cut across language barriers. Due to the age, he started facing a problem of eyesight because of which he could not continue. Kutty wrote an English-language memoir, Years Of Laughter: Reminiscences of a Cartoonist, released in 2009 two years before his death.

5. O.V. Vijayan

He 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.

His cartoons also appeared in publications such as Far Eastern Economic Review and The New York Times. He balanced both his skills of writing and drawing. Philosophy and politics merged in his cartoons, while revolution and spirituality fused in his writings.

6. Mario Miranda

From 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.

He got a letter from TOI, who rejected him earlier, regarding the job and his creations, such as Miss Nimbupani and Miss Fonseca, appeared on a regular basis in Femina, Economic Times, and The Illustrated Weekly of India, thereafter. He has been awarded most honorable awards like Padma Shree and immensely admired by readers.

7. Bal Thackeray

Before 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.

In 1960, he launched the cartoon weekly Marmik with his brother Srikant. He used it to campaign against the growing numbers and influence of non-Marathi people in Mumbai, targeting south Indians. After parting ways FPJ, he started his own newspaper which could not survive for a longer time. It was the popularity of Marmik that prompted him to form the Shiv Sena in 1966.

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.

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