It isn’t often that Indian cartoonists talk about their craft—or their colleagues and compatriots.
There is, for instance, a famous incident of the doyen of Indian cartooning, R.K. Laxman, being asked in the course of an interview with The Illustrated Weekly of India, about a younger cartoonist then working for the Indian Express.
“Ravi Shankar? Fantastic sitarist,” was Laxman’s put-down, sotto voce.
Ajit Ninan, the former cartoonist of India Today and Outlook now a consultant with The Times of India, speaks about Laxman, in an interview in Star of Mysore:
Q: How would you differentiate yourself from R.K. Laxman?
A: I am a man of details and I think India is a country of details. Look at our architecture, the temples, fashion—everything has a lot of details. There is no school of cartooning and it is my seniors who helped me. I learnt by observing their works and have slept over their styles. Mario Miranda‘s details, Abu Abraham‘s simplicity of thought and Laxman’s works—something of everybody is there in my work.
However, Laxman’s cartoons had lengthy captions. I try to finish it within 10 words or even less. Almost 70% of my time goes into drafting captions.
When your drawing is so detailed, why burden it with words?
Q: Who would rank as the best Indian cartoonist?
A: R.K. Laxman—because he was a typical South Indian genius. He was a big crowd-puller and by nature he was funny, sharp and witty. Next is Mario because he brought out Indian architecture and humour, food, language, fashion through his drawings. He was a complete cartoonist and very versatile. The third would be Sudhir Tailang.
Image: courtesy Shafali