Whenever you have a hearty laugh over a funny caricature, do you wonder who made the funny, thought-provoking lines? As squiggly lines, bulbous jowls and catchy punchlines bring to life real characters, these works of art also highlight underlying issues that a common man likes to talk about.
Cartoons not only educate us but also bring a smile to our faces.
Merging satire with current issues, political cartoons have often been considered as a powerful medium of free expression and social commentary. Over the years, a lot of political cartoonists have had to suffer the after-effects of creatively expressing their opinion on serious issues in light humour.
In wake of Aseem Trivedi’s arrest and the subsequent release, we speak to a few cartoonists who tell us about some of their works that received harsh response in the past.
There have been many instances when my cartoons have been criticised in the similar manner. The worst was when I drew a cartoon for an English daily in the city. Soon after, my phone wouldn’t stop ringing. I got a lot of e-mails and phone calls from different sections of the society condemning the cartoon. I don’t want to reveal the contents of the cartoon as it was controversial. But as far as I am concerned, it was not defamatory as it depicted the truth.
Instead of blaming politicians who did something wrong, people often blame cartoonists The recent incident was an attack on the freedom of cartoonists. We are blamed for drawing a particular cartoon but the real message is always overlooked. People’s opinions are one-sided.
— Vikas Gupta, political cartoonist
One of my cartoons on Vidhana Soudha read ‘Government’s work is dog’s work, some porn might make it fun’. That received a lot of flak from people. I think cartoons need to be a little sensitive and I also believe that today suppression is being used as a tool to shun cartoonists. There’s a thin line between being funny and derogatory. Of course, with experience, one can always develop that finesse. I think one has to be a little less touchy about such things in India. Though, personally, I felt that Aseem’s cartoon was a little crude with respect to artistic values, that still doesn’t give anyone the right to arrest him.
— Balraj K N, political cartoonist
None of my works has been heavily criticised by people in the past. However, one of my caricatures of Gandhi received a lot of negative response. In fact, some people asked me to remove it from my page on a social networking site. A cartoonists’ medium of expression is his art. I think everyone should have the freedom to express themselves without the fear of being criticised or judged. It is only through one’s respective medium that an artist can express his or her opinions to the society. I feel all artists regardless of their medium who communicate through their art have to be sincere about what they do.
Before inflicting our opinions on the society, I think as a human being it is extremely important that we have our own set of experiences and realisations that would change us a human being.
— Shijo Varghese,caricaturist
A long time ago I had drawn the caricature of Vatal Nagaraj. That didn’t go well with several people and the next thing I saw was that there were people protesting outside my office. They ransacked the office and broke the furniture. I personally think that cartoonists should make subtle cartoons that tickle the funny bones of people and not offend them. Arresting a cartoonist doesn’t serve any purpose. Why should a tax payer be arrested when corrupt people roam the streets free?
— Gujjarappa, political cartoonist
I remember this one time my picture came under the radar. The picture depicted a woman in the shower. And, a lot of people objected to it on social networking sites. I didn’t see anything wrong with the illustration as it conveyed a message. I feel Indian democracy is a big joke. I don’t want to offend anyone with my work but I will draw what is right. People are still not open to a lot of things in our country. We need to be more open-minded towards such issues.
— Ari Jayaprakash, illustrator
I remember getting a lot of criticism for some of my political cartoons. People were unhappy with the whole idea of expressing my opinions in such a manner. As a cartoonist, it is my right to creatively express my ideas freely. However, I also believe that there should be some discipline in exercising that right. I don’t agree with Aseem’s approach towards the issue of corruption in the country. The whole point was lost. Corruption has nothing to do with the Indian republic symbol.
— Gireesh Vengora, political cartoonist