KC Sivasankar, the artist who brought Chandamama cartoons to life, passed away at 97. Here, we reproduce a piece on him published in 2016 when he was 92.
CHENNAI: I am sure we all have read the Chandamama series at least once. Perhaps not the millennials but it was a must-read series for parents and grandparents. The Chandamama or the Ambulimama magazine was one source, which helped kids (before the Internet and smartphones) to recreate a story in their minds. Drawings were colourful with vivid expressions, they created a world of magic for kids to escape into! Those who created such graphics are long gone but City Express managed to track down an artist— the only one alive from the team, whose drawings brought characters to life.
Artist Sankar or KC Sivasankar has been contributing to the field of art for over 50 years. Born in a small village near Erode, Sankar shifted to the city with his younger brother to study in a corporation school when he was 10. “I was in Class 5 and my brother was admitted in Class 2. For some reason, he didn’t want to study in the school and went back to our village,” he shared trying hard to recollect his childhood days.
In 1942, he started to explore art and recalls that his teacher advised him to join the Government Arts College and pursue a career in this field. The old man remembers even today that his first job as an artist was for a magazine, which was not too appealing for him then. “The first artwork I did was by looking at my textbooks and drawing the animals and birds from that. Initially, I used to only see and draw,” said the 92-year-old artist.
When he completed his course at the Government Art College in 1946, a senior had asked him to join the Kalai Magal magazine, where he worked for five years. As 1951 was nearing, he joined the Ambulimama magazine which was then run by Nagi Reddy, who Sankar considered his family. “My journey with the Chandamama started there and continued for the next 60 years,” beamed Sankar. “Yes, it’s hard to find Chandamama's work, but I wouldn’t say its dead; people still talk about it.”
Everything changes over time; did Chandamama as an art form change too? “The art had no change in its form, but the people’s response kept changing. I have received a number of letters from my readers, appreciating me for my imagination and how I managed to bring life to a character that does not exist. I am very happy to share that Chandamama is the only magazine today that shot up to being published in 12 languages from three in a short period,” he smiled.
As the only living artist from the Chandamama team, he shares with us a little of what exactly is expected out of this art. “This form of art is tricky, as it expects the artist to know what he is working on. The characters may have a cultural connection or may be fictitious, but the artist is expected to have knowledge about it before he starts work on it.” To excel as an artist, Sankar’s advice is to give one’s heart and soul to the piece one is working on and be truthful to whatever one does. “Adhathan naan panen!” he said casually.
On completing 60 years with Ambulimama, he joined the Ramakrishna Vijayam magazine and began to draw and paint portraits of gods and goddesses. “I get a few orders from Ramkrishna Vijayam today, but I find it a little hard to join my thumb, index, and middle finger to hold the pencil, but I manage somehow,” he explained.
Ask him about the last work he created, he laughed and said; “Well I forget to take my tablets on time, my daughter reminds me, and the last drawing I have to check…”