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'A cartoonist should always be anti-establishment in nature'
VG Narendra the Managing Trustee of the Indian Institute of Cartoonists speaks with merinews.com..

Merinews: Why would anybody like to be a cartoonist? Is it a viable career option?


Narendra: If one has an irresistible urge to express one’s anger and displeasure about an issue or a person in a veiled manner one would take up cartooning. Cartooning does give a career option if one takes it seriously.

Merinews: What are the legal hassles associated with the profession of being a cartoonist? How do you sensitize your students about this aspect?

Narendra: If a cartoonist is working for a newspaper or a magazine the ultimate responsibility of the cartoon lies with the Editor. If the cartoonist is a freelancer, he has to be extra careful. He has to fight on his own in case of a legal hassle. The heated issue created by Mamata’s cartoon is an example.

Merinews: Why do you think cartoons are necessary for democracy?

Narendra: We teach our students to excercise self restraint. The job of a cartoonist is to draw the attention of the readers gently to the follies of our leaders and the people around us while tickling their funny bones. We teach them not to hit any person below belt. A cartoonist moulds public opinion.

Merinews: Not everybody has the same tolerance level. Not everybody may like to be caricatured in a funny way. Though hurting feelings is not your objective people may choose to feel hurt. How do you respond to such people?

Narendra:
Freedom of expression is an important feature of a democracy. The common people at large don’t have a voice to raise against any issue. The cartoonist should become a voice for them. He should always be anti-establishment in nature. The cartoonist has to stick to his conviction. As you have stated in your question, not everybody has the same tolerance level, the cartoonist has to face the situation boldly. 

Merinews:  Most of the times cartoonists work on the edge. There is a high chance that somebody in a powerful position may not find a particular piece amusing. How do you take care of these issues? Have you ever faced any such an incidence in your life?

Narendra: You have rightly said that cartoonists work on the edge. If the owner of the newspaper is on your side you need not fear anybody. While I was working as a staff cartoonist, I drew a pocket cartoon lampooning a local politician. He threatened to drag me to court and later kept quiet because he knew very well that he would not win the case.

Merinews: In recent days, a professor has been arrested in Bengal for forwarding a cartoon of the Chief Minister on the Internet. The Indian government has closed down a website showcasing political cartoons against corruption. Do you think freedom of expression is strangled in such cases? What will be your suggestion to the government and political parties?

Narendra: I too was angered by the arrest of a professor in West Bengal as the common man of the country did. I would like to look at the issue the other way. The professor has earned enormous support of the people of India.

The need of the hour is, we should have broad minded political leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru at the helm of affairs. I would like to draw your attention towards Nehru’s views on the pioneer of Indian cartooning Mr. Shankar Pillai. Mr Shankar was publishing a weekly called ‘Shankar’s Weekly’ which was full of political and social cartoons and humorous articles. Nehru used to tell Shankar- ‘Don’t Spare Me, Shankar’.


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