In the beginning was a line and Shankar took it and made it a
cartoon. The father of cartooning in India was born on July 31,
1902, in Kayamkulam, Kerala.
His family intended him to be a lawyer and Shankar
dutifully joined the Law College in Bombay
in 1927. However, after just a year, he quitted the course and became
private Secretary to Narottam Morarjee,
the Shipping Magnate.
Drawing caricatures had been a
hobby with Shankar in his student days .He now
doodled in all his spare time, and soon started sending cartoons regularly
to The Bombay
Free Press Journal and The Weekly Herald .
In 1932, Joseph the editor of The Hindustan Times offered him
a job as staff cartoonist of his paper. Shankar
jumped at the opportunity. After six years with the paper, he was granted
study leave for a year so that he could go to London and study art professionally.
In 1946, he quit The Hindustan Times . Two years later,
he started his journal, Shankar's Weekly, India's first and only journal
of political cartoons. The weekly became a training ground for many
Apart from cartooning, Shankar's other abiding love was children. He started
the Shankar's International Children's
Competition (SSLC), to spot talent. Today, children from 135 countries
participate in this annual contest.
A gift of a Hungarian doll to SICC
in 1954, gave Shankar a brilliant idea. He
decided to collect costume dolls. When his collection grew, he decided to
bring his doll exhibition, the annual competitions and exhibitions and the
publishing of children's books under one umbrella. The result was the
non-profit organization, Children's Book Trust, started in 1957. Shankar's International
today houses 6,500 costume dolls from 85 countries.
In 1968, Shankar
started Children's World ,
an illustrated monthly magazine, unique in that it was by children, for
In August 1975, Shankar's Weekly closed down after 27
eventful years. Shankar was showered with awards.
Among them were the Padma Sri; Padma Bhushan' Padma Vibhushan; the Order of
Smile, an honour from a committee of Polish
Children and the Order de Saint Fortunat from Germany for
his dedication to children.
Shankar passed away on
December 26, 1989, aged 87.
B. V. Ramamurthy perpetually
bemused Mr .
with the trials and tribulations of life, has
greeted Karnataka every morning for over 33 years now. For decades, with
his gentle humour, B. V. Ramamurthy, perhaps the
progenitor of the pocket cartoon on South India,
has been making readers of Decan Herald, Prajavani, Sudha and Mayura chuckle.
His Mr. Citizen had become a habit
with Karnataka. In fact, when at one point, Mr. Citizen abandoned his trademark Mysore
(turban) and displayed a bald pate, readers demanded that
he don the ‘ Peta' again.
Murthy, as he is known to friend
(he also jokingly calls himself ‘3 Thi __ a pum of his name in
Kannada), had honed his drawing and sketching skills even while in college.
He graduated in Science from St. Joseph's
in 1955. it was ‘Kidi' Sheshappa, a firebrand journilist of the ‘50s, who uncovered Murthy's talent
as a cartoonist, in his paper Kidi, literally meaning ‘ Spark' .
This sparked the growth of a genius. Murthy's talent was further nurtured
by the legendary Pothan Joseph, who provided him
a stronger spring-board and a large canvas Decan Herald and Prajavani. He encouraged Murthy to draw
a pocket cartoon every day. Mr. Citizen soon became the morning Toast of
Karnataka's readers. Their spokesman for all things under the sun__ through
he never said a word!
Among cartoons that brought Murthy
international attention was one titled ‘Grin of
the year' caricaturing Jimmy Carter, the former US President.
While he is known mainly for his cartoons, his illustrations
are much by connoisseurs, and exhibitions of his watercolours
and oil colours are big draws.
Probably the only Indian
cartoonist who worked with British newspapers for almost 16 years, and
certainly the only one in the world who changed his name and signature half
way into his career! That was Abu Abraham.
A principled political cartoonist
who “walked tall while others crawled”, Abu was born on
June 11, 1924, in Mavelikara near the Malabar coast. He was a child prodigy. He began his
professional career in 1946 with The
Bombay Chronicle as reporter, and also drew cartoons for Blitz as a freelancer.
His big break came when he joined Shankar's Weekly , as staff
cartoonist in 1951. In 1953, British cartoonist Fred Joss who had seen his
work sent him a brief letter. “When are
you coming?” it said. Abu packed his bags and left
He worked with The Observer for
10 years (1956-66) and then with The
Guardian for three years (1966-69).
Till April 1956, Abu was plain ‘Abraham', and signed his name as such. On April 6,
1956, when he drew his first cartoon for the paper, David Astor, the
editor, after approving it, asked him if he couldn't use a pseudonym. Abu
recalls in his reminiscences: “He
explained, saying that any Abraham in Europe
would be taken as a Jew and all my cartoons would take on a slant for no reason,
and I wasn't even Jewish. What was more, the Middle-East was beginning to
boil at that time... I thought up the pseudonym, Abu. ‘Perfect,' Astor said, suitably mysterious. Thus was I
In 1969, he returned to India, and
joined The Indian Express. From
1972 to 1978, came a stint in the Rajya Sabha. The Emergency brought out the best in him, and
he drew scathing cartoons. His work during his period was later published
as a book, Games of Emergency .
(His other two books are Abu On
Bangladesh and Arrivals
And Departures. His animated film called No Arks , won a British
Film Institute special award in 1970.)
After leaving the Express in 1981, he began to
syndicate his work to several newspapers. His philosophical strip, Salt And Pepper , ran for almost
20 years in several publications.
Abu passed away on Dec 1, 2002, after
complications following duodenum surgery
His two-stroke line drawing of Gandhili is perhaps the best known line drawing of the
Mahatma in the world.
Ranga, lesser known by
his full Name N. K. Ranganathan, also had another
distinction that not many know of: He
is in the Limca Book of Records for having the
highest collection (of some 2,000 autographed cartoons/sketches) of
national and international celebrities. Ranga had
the habit of sketching celebrities while interviewing them for AIR . On one such occasion, the late Russian President
Nikita Kruschev liked his sketch so much that he
asked for a copy. After that, Ranga began drawing
two cartoons: One for the celeb and one with
his/her autograph for himself. At a photo-op or
press briefing, Ranga would calmly draw,
unruffled by the jostling of reporters and security men. In fact, he
perfected the art of drawing two sketches in the time taken for one, to
While most leaders gladly
autographed his sketches, only two leaders demurred. Former British Prime
Minister Margent Thatcher felt he had not done justice to her new coiffure.
Ranga immediately re-touched the sketch, and the
Iron Lady signed it. In the second case, however, the celeb
would not oblige: Prince Charles thought Ranga
has done a poor caricature of his, and refused to sign.
On yet another occasion, former
Park Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto did sign,
but made his displeasure clear: “A bad
cartoon. I do not look anything like this,” he
scrawled on Ranga's sketch.
life began in Shankar's Weekly the tutelage of
the legendary K. Shankar Pillai.
He worked at various times for The
Statesman, The Indian Express and The Tribune, besides drawing
for various other publications across the country, for nearly four decades.
Ranga died of a
massive heart attack on July 28, 2002 in Bangalore.
In and arena Dominated by men, Maya Kamath was a rarity a women cartoonist !
Born in Bombay
in 1951, she spent her formative years in Delhi, and acquired an MA in English
literature. Drawing was a hobby with her as a child, and this talent
flowered during her stint as an illustrator with Macmillan's and as a
drawing teacher at Sophia's School. The turning point came when she set her
eyes on the sketches of a book titled For better or for Worse by Lin Johnston.
Wonderstruck, she plunged into the world of cartooning.
Her career as a cartoonist began
in 1985 with a cartoon strip about family life called ‘Gita', in The Evening Herald' a fledgling
publications of the Deccan Herald Group. In 1986,
she began drawing pocket cartoons for the Bangalore edition of The Indian Express . Then came a
daily current affairs cartoon for the Bangalore Times of India, titled, ‘The World of Maya', after this, she contributed current
affairs cartoons to several publications including The independent, The Free Press Journal,
Mid-Day and Newsday.
Her cartoons on environmental issue appeared in the German
In 1997, when The Asian Age was launched in
Bangalore Maya found it a fertile field for political satire. In October
1998, the Karnataka Cartoonists' Association conferred an award on her on
the occasion of the 7th Cartoonists' Conference.
She finally lost her battle with cancer
and the world of cartooning lost one of its brightest gems.
Indian Institute of Cartoonists conducts
Maya Kamath Memorial awards for Political
Cartoons every year in her fond memory.