A final battle cry for political cartoons

By S.Vishnhu Saaye and Usha Rani Das

In memory of R.K.Laxman and Rajender Puri. Photo: Usha Rani Das

In memory of R.K.Laxman and Rajender Puri. Photo: Usha Rani Das

Chennai: R.K.Laxman was hailed as an unambigious genius, by various editors and cartoonists at the inauguration of a symposium on cartooning held at the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ) on Monday.

Sadanand Menon, adjunct faculty at the ACJ and organizer of the symposium said, “The idea to hold this symposium emerged when R.K.Laxman passed away. To pay homage to Laxman, we were planning to invite Rajinder Puri to talk, but his death 21 days after Laxman’s was a critical blow and put forth the question of the end of the era of political cartooning in India.”

The event titled ‘Is the Era of the Political Cartooning over?’ started off with Shashi Kumar, Chairman of ACJ welcoming the distinguished audience and calling it a ‘very eventful day’ to commemorate Laxman and Puri. “Cartooning represents the vibrancy of democracy,” he said.

Talking about the need for a free press and a need for everybody guaranteed rights under the constitution to exercise them, Shashi Kumar said, “If I’m an atheist, how do I profess and propagate my ideology and beliefs without ridiculing all existing religions?”

Sadanand Menon, citing the example of M.F.Hussain, said, “You can’t be a citizen without expressing yourself. There is a need for the freedom of thought.”

N. Ram at the event. Photo: Usha Rani Das

N. Ram giving an editor’s perspective on political cartooning. Photo: Usha Rani Das

N.Ram, former editor-in-chief of The Hindu and a trustee of the Media Development Foundation, said, “Cartoonists not only need space but need extensive liberal space. As an editor, I always left the cartoonists alone, unlike some other celebrity editors.”

Speaking about the role of cartoonists in the editorial section of a newspaper, Ram said that there can only be broad guidelines to the working of an editorial artist or a cartoonist. “It is sad that there are various taboos in our society, other than religion. For example, you can’t draw the Prophet whatever you wish to portray. Similarly in Maharashtra, Chatrapathi Sivaji can’t be used for cartooning and Subash Chandra Bose is another holy cow. I hope this changes,” he said.

The program was organized with the help of a student body that consisted six students from the Asian College of Journalism – Nihal Thondepu, Aditya Iyer, Arka Bhattacharya, Manas Mitul, Pardh Aurora Praveen Suvedan.

The students organized an exhibition of cartoons and also made a presentation in an attempt to capture the history of political cartooning in India. Works of cartoonists such as Rajendra Puri, R.K.Laxman, O.V.Vijayan, Mathew Abu Abraham, Kutty, Mario Miranda, Tailung, E.P.Unny, Ajit Ninan, Keshav, Surendra, Gokul Gopalakrishnan, Madan, Manjul and Sandeep were reviewed.

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