cartoon therapy

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    By Durga Prasad and Roshini Muthukumar

    A jeans-clad Baba Ramdev striking an impossible yoga pose, a gutter-mouthed man screaming through a commode, and the Pacific Ocean as a puddle in a vast desert — These were some of the cartoons exhibited last month at the Indian Institute of Cartoonists (IIC) in Bangalore.

    The IIC exhibition was part of its annual Maya Kamath Memorial Awards (MKMA) for Excellence in Political Cartooning. This year marked the 12th anniversary of the forum and its cartoon gallery.

    The institute received 109 entries for the ‘Excellence in political cartooning’ category and the best 50 were exhibited for public viewing. Prasanth Kulkarni of Mumbai won the award for ‘Best political cartoon’ and Suprabho Roy from Jharkhand won the ‘Best budding cartoonist’ award. The jury for the awards included late playwright Girish Karnad, sculptor Balan Nambiar, senior cartoonist BG Gujjarappa, and the writer Vivek Shanbag.

    From satire to social commentary

    Cartoonists use their creativity through cartoons, caricatures and sketches as a way to provoke and protest or make a statement. In fact, today, cartooning has become an increasingly powerful medium to inspire young cartoonists to share their views and thoughts on political, social, and economic developments around the world.

    Cartoonist Suprabho Roy, believes that “…cartoons are a great way of expressing one’s view. Moreover, cartooning gives the artist an opportunity to comment on or criticise socio-political issues, with a dose of laughter.” For instance, Byju Paulose’s cartoon of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un drawing hearts on the beach to signify the denuclearization pact signed in Singapore.

    However, cartoonists today feel that their freedom of expression is threatened. “The freedom cartoonists previously enjoyed has slowly deteriorated. Cartoonists should have the courage to express their views and publications should have the courage to support them,” observed senior cartoonist BG Gujjarappa at the inauguration of the exhibition to the Times of India.

    According to the IIC website, “When satire, wit and comic strokes blend, what emerges is a deadly potion, a cartoon that can hit governments harder than a thousand-word editorial can.”

    The political cartoons that appeared in Punch, a British weekly magazine of satire, influenced Indian cartoonists to develop a strong sense of cartooning. For example, this is a cartoon featuring Sir Campbell, then-commander of the British forces in India, presenting a tiger to Lord Palmerston, the then British Prime Minister, who hesitates to accept the gift. This cartoon, which appeared in the year 1858, was a reference to official scepticism in London after the British East India Company failed to resolve the uprising in India.

    In India, newspapers like Bengal Hurkaru and Indian Gazette, in 1851, were pioneers in publishing political cartoons decrying Colonial rule in India. Post-Independence, in 1948, cartoonist Shankar Pillai, popularly known as ‘The father of political cartooning’, established Shankar’s Weekly. Considered to be India’s answer to Punch, Shankar’s Weekly gave cartoonists like Abu Abraham, Ranga and Kutty a forum to express their creativity.

    While on the subject of cartooning and cartoonists, who can forget the late R K Laxman? His work is still hugely relevant today. His deceptively simple creation ‘The common man’ continues to capture the aspirations and struggles of the ordinary Indian while taking an irreverent dig at politicians and the state of politics in the country.

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