R.K. Laxman may have made his name after a lifetime at The Times of India, but it was for a small Kannada humour monthly called Koravanji that the Mysore-born cartoonist drew his first works.
The magazine had been inspired by the British satirical magazine Punch. The first issue saw the light of day, today, 70 years ago and shut down 25 years later, in 1967.
A CD containing 300 past issues of Koravanji (which refers to fortune-telling tribal women) was released in Mysore last week, and a website has been launched to keep the jokes going.
Prof A.V. Narasimha Murthy, former head of the department of ancient history and archaeology of the University of Mysore, recounts the origin of Koravanji in Star of Mysore.
“The editor of Korvanji was Dr R. Shivaram, popularly known as RaShi. He was a medical doctor but his stethoscope could detect humour. It seems that he was a regular reader of Punch, the internationally known humour magazine.
“The college in which RaShi was studying auctioned all the old magazines including Punch. Shivaram managed to collect Rs 3 to buy them. But the Principal of the college himself purchased the lot at Rs 4.
“The boy was highly disappointed. But the understanding Principal presented all the volumes to Shivaram as a gift. This precious gift from the Principal was a turning point in the career of young Shivaram and years later he started the monthly magazine Koravanji.
“The first issue appeared on Ugadi day of Chitrabanu Samvatsara (1942). Each issue was sold at 4 annas of 25 paise. Newspaper agents purchased the copies but did not pay the Editor/MD. The doctor who had made a good name had no cure for these agents.”
Koravanji‘s editorial menu comprised humourous skits, light hearted poems, parodies, gossip, limericks, cartoons, etc. The absence of obscene lines and double entendre was a stand-out feature, according to the professor.
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