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Laughter lines

Cartoonists blend art with journalism and garnish it with humour to portray social ills in a simplified and graceful way. Vimal Chander Joshi peeps into their funny world.

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:54 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

Manoj Chopra, a law graduate from Jammu University, used to make cartoons which were put up on the college notice boards to draw the attention of the authorities. As a professional cartoonist, he now does the same for the people of India.

Though he practised law briefly in 1995 soon after getting his degree, his interest and expertise in making caricatures drew him closer to the toon world which got him a job with a fortnightly magazine in Jammu.

Artist Unny did not think twice before starting his career as a cartoonist with a national daily in Kerala. For Unny, it was an achievement of sorts because he didn’t have a formal training in fine arts. “One can be taught to draw but one can’t learn the art of cartooning,” he says.

Pran, the famous cartoonist and creator of the much-loved Chacha Chaudhary, did a course in fine arts from the Sir JJ School of Art. He, however, does not believe that the training is imperative to become a good cartoonist. “Did Shankar (better known as the father of political cartooning in India) go to any art school, or did Ahmed (another famous cartoonist) get any formal training,” he asks.

Humour and artistic abilities are the essential ingredients that go into the making of a good cartoonist, but journalistic skills help too. Unny says he reads seven newspapers every day and also follows news channels regularly. His dependency on the electronic media increased only in the last few years.

“Earlier we used to read the morning papers and could take the whole day to make the next day’s cartoon, but now, the news is reported all the time on TV which keeps us always on our toes,” he says.

Artists suggest that a cartoon should not be discussed until it is finalised. “It’s not an orchestra. In the world of cartooning, you ought to compose your tune alone,” says Unny. Making a complete cartoon takes him somewhere around three to four hours but he could also be required to redo it. There is one “default” cartoon which he makes in the beginning of the day and after that, if a new development takes place, then it is replaced with a “timely” caricature.

With the soaring popularity of TV, the trend of cartooning is, sadly, waning, which calls for the need to explore other aesthetic alternatives beyond just political cartoons. “One can work as an illustrator-cum-cartoonist,” says Triambak Sharma, a marketing executive-turned-cartoonist-turned publisher who brings out the magazine Cartoon Watch.

Another safe bet is to explore opportunities in the electronic media and the Internet. Pran’s son Nikhil could sense the decline of the print industry and geared up for changing times. After studying computer engineering at Manipal University, he started a media institute to train students in animation, mass communication and creative writing — apart from cartooning. “Print cartooning shouldn’t be seen in insulation. It must be complimented with animation movies and digital promotion. If creative art is integrated with a good business sense, then several Indian superheroes can be created the way the Western world produced the likes of Superman and Spiderman,” says Nikhil Pran.

We hope that a cartoonist’s pen would conjure an immortal Indian superhero soon. And with this, the next generation of cartoonists is likely to follow.

What's it about?
A cartoonist specialises in drawing cartoons. These are generally humorous, intended primarily for entertainment. Cartoonists may make political, satirical or social cartoons in newspapers or magazines or sometimes draw to develop comic strips, comic books, graphic novels or animation

Clock Work
9 am: Read newspapers, magazines and watch news on TV before trawling the Internet
Noon: Ideate
1 pm: Start working on the idea to make the next day’s cartoon
3.30 pm: Ensure that no major development has taken place which might have rendered the cartoon futile
4 pm: If the need arises, one can re-work on the cartoon to make it more apt, timely and appealing
5 pm: Check out the latest cartoons, images, and illustrations on websites, journals as well as magazines to stay updated

The Payoff
One can earn anywhere between Rs250 to Rs2000 for one cartoon

Skills
.
Be creative - good with drawing and sketching and quick
. Be very witty
. Journalistic bent of mind

How do i get there?
Do a full-fledged art programme at the undergraduate or postgraduate level before you apply for a job or any freelance work. Keep building up a portfolio and sending your work to editors or the designing heads of newspapers or magazines - who might even decide to hire you. You can also be hired by a publishing house which prints comic books

Institutes & urls
. Short-term course in creative writing and cartooning from Pran’s Media Institute
www.pran.in
. Bachelor of fine arts (BFA) from the College of Art, University of Delhi.
www.delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/lib_collegeofart/Collegeofarts/Home/Programmes
. BA in painting from Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda.
Visit www.msubaroda.ac.in for details
. Bachelor of Fine Arts from Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai
www.mu.ac.in/colleges.html

Pros & cons


.

Name and fame are easy to come by and sometimes cartoonists get to be even more popular than journalists


.

Most political cartoons are critical in nature. You could rub people up the wrong way


.

There is a lot of struggle involved. There are very few people who can fend for themselves in this field. Others have to look for alternative sources of income

Print, E-media can Help each other

A veteran speaks about the future of cartooning in India

How did your characters become so popular?
When I started in 1960, I realised that all popular cartoon characters, be it Dennis the Menace or Tarzan, were Western. There are many of us who neither understand them, nor enjoy them.

Chacha Chaudhary is a typical man you who can find on the roads of Chandni Chowk and Pinki is a five-year-old you will find in every nook and corner. Billu is a typical Indian teenager who is a cricket buff.

Does journalism also play a role in your genre of cartooning?
I have been around for the past 50 years. And the reason why I could sustain for this long is that I have changed the theme of my comics according to the changing paradigms of society. When pickpockets and burglary became an everyday occurence, I wrote around the problems. The series I made on a character called Raman were based on communal harmony. One comic named Raman Hum Ek Hai was released by the late Indira Gandhi in 1983.

What do you think about the future of cartooning in India? Are you concerned about the plunging popularity of printed comics?
Sales suffered around six to seven years ago though they have increased of late. What we need to do is to capitalise on the strengths of other mediums of communication such as the Internet or TV. When my comics were made into TV serials and were screened a few years ago, the sales of my printed comics soared.

We shouldn’t consider TV as our competitor but a medium which can be exploited to the advantage of print.

What advice would you like to give to young aspiring cartoonists?
I would suggest that they take up cartooning as a profession but they should be ready to put in years of struggle and hard work. In every creative field, there is a lot of toil involved before you can carve out a niche for yourself.

It took me around seven years before I was earning enough to support my family.

Pran, creator of Chacha Chaudhary Interviewed by Vimal Chander Joshi