Animals dance, sing, laugh, socialise, shop and do almost everything a human does. But this happens only in the imaginary world of an animal cartoonist like the City-based artist Ananth Shankar.
Unlike other cartoonists, Shankar has an advantage. “I do not offend anyone, yet can target everyone,” he explains with pride. He could do that because his victims are essentially animals.
Thirty-five-year-old Shankar had won the R K Laxman Award when he was only 16. But early in life, he had decided never to copy others or repeat his drawings. This ‘think out-of-the box attitude’ prompted him to choose animals as heroes and also villains in his works. His reticent and introvert nature had prompted him to choose animals instead of humans as his subject. Shankar’s inspiration is Walt Disney whose standards are still unmatched. “I only wish there were more species of animals so that I could have understood much more of them,” said Shankar, also a photographer.
Even one stroke of the pen could spark an artist’s imagination. This illustrator magically transforms any given line, irrespective of the shape or size, into an animal cartoon. “Any line can be a drawing and any drawing can become a cartoon.”
Shankar has also authored the Bisi Busy Bangalore where SAM (Swalpa Adjust Madi), the protagonist (a dog) in his world of cartoons took on the City. The book’s four series, released quarterly, concentrate on four aspects that he believes are important – travel, shopping, food and education.
Among the characters in the book are Cow Alli (Kawali) who represents the drunkard found lying on the road, Cat-Reena (Katrina), a stylish girl intent on looking cool all the time, and Durga Murga, a duck that mocks the feisty and feminist attitude of a lady.
The cartoonist has also authored the book titled Crazy Desi that was released in July. In a span of just two months, 4,000 copies of the book have been sold. Also, a new series of the artist’s Bisi Busy Bangalore will be on released in colour for the first time in January next.
The cartoonist does not exhibit his cartoons as he believes that people who visit such shows only make comparative statements and are judgmental. Unlike most other contemporary cartoonists, Shankar had boldly opted to try depending on cartoons as his only source of income for six months. “Most cartoonists work only part-time, but I decided that I would not be one of them,” he explained.
He also decided to get out of the monotonous city life and stay in a farm near Bannerghatta National Park. Shankar observes animals visit his farm frequently and that he tries to understand their behaviour pattern and then relate it to human beings. “I live with animals to understand their personality,” he says.
Shankar had quit his brand consultant job in 2009 to follow his passion. “Why not do what you want when you are young and before your hair turns grey,” he reasons. “I started drawing when I was about three years old and my father encouraged me to do what I was best at.”