Modi-era cartoons collected in two books

Satish Acharya looks back on five years of zany inspiration and angry threats
Last Updated 19 March 2019, 12:53 IST

Well-known cartoonist Satish Acharya has come out with two new books, and they are collections of his work since Modi came to power in 2014.

Ranked by Forbes India as one of India’s 24 most influential thinkers known outside, Satish has worked with some of India’s leading newspapers, and now works freelance from his house in Kundapura, near Mangaluru.

His two new books bring together work he has done since 2014, and Modi dominates. Satish’s speed and consistency are always a matter of wonder: he responds to events as they break, drawing several cartoons a day, at a pace so furious few in the world can match him.

“I had come out with a collection of my cartoons ahead of the 2014 elections, ‘Mein, Hum & AAP.’ So, I thought I should come out with another ahead of 2019,” he told Metrolife.

Given his prolific output, it was not easy shortlisting cartoons he had done over five years. He was looking for about 100 cartoons, but ended up picking out almost 500. “I wanted to do justice to this crucial political era in Indian democracy. So I thought I should come out with at least two books and use at least 200 cartoons,” he says.

The two books, Cartoon Sarkar and Hum and Them, are just out on the stands. This has been an era of plenty, with cartoonists having a tough time picking their topics, Satish says. Editorial cartooning is about both the cartoonist and the reader. It’s also a cartoonist’s duty to educate readers. Sensible readers not only help editorial cartooning thrive, but also ensure freedom for cartoonists, he says. In an interview, he talks about his art and new challenges.

Have you faced any new challenges in this era?

If you look at any news, you realise Modi is everywhere. It’s as if this is one-man government! The flip side is that Modi’s followers don’t like cartoons about him. They are frustrated when they see Modi featured in cartoons. And they seldom hesitate to express their anger. First, they disagree with you, then they criticise and abuse you, and finally threaten you. I have been at the receiving end almost every day. Recently someone sent a message threatening to teach me a lesson in public. I ignore all such responses once I post my cartoons on social media. But I love interacting with cartoon lovers and cartoon enthusiasts.

How do you see the cartooning scene in India and Karnataka?

Thanks to social media, there’s an audience for cartoons. And there’s a platform readily available for young cartoonists. The last six to seven years have seen many cartoonists using social media to reach new readers and to attract new publications. I feel the future belongs to digital news platforms. I see lots of talent both at the national and state level. Karnataka has a rich tradition of cartoonists and we are doing our best to preserve this legacy.

Have you faced censorship from publications? How do you deal with them?

I totally respect editorial decisions. Disagreement is common between a cartoonist and his editor, especially when we are doing editorial cartoons. A cartoonist brings his own ideas which can be contrary to the editors. When that happens, we sort it out with a discussion. But the problem arises when an editor wants to impose his thoughts and curb the cartoonist’s voice. It happens all the time. And in such cases, I keep my options open. I take up one or two extra clients just to safeguard my freedom to take a tough decision! Most cartoonists draw their own boundaries. I’m sensitive to subjects like caste and religion. I don’t want my cartoons to incite communal violence and kill people. I’m always careful while drawing cartoons on these subjects.

Are there politicians around who take cartoons sportingly?

Most Indian celebrities don’t enjoy cartoons on them. They use their followers to target cartoonists. Sometimes their followers troll cartoonists on their own. But some politicians do smile and take cartoons in their stride. UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav came out with a collection of cartoons featuring him. Most were critical of him and his governance.

You are encouraging children to learn cartooning...

I believe we are all born artists and we unlearn our ability to draw as we grow up. Especially in a vibrant democracy like India, we should be able to express our opinion through cartoons. When I visited schools and colleges, I found youngsters showing no interest in the news. I thought cartooning was one method to remain an alert citizen. We started organising Cartoonu Habbas (cartoon festivals), inviting cartoonists, and holding contests for caricature drawing and dialogue writing. We organised workshops for students and professionals. Cartooning as a career can’t compete with medical, engineering or IT jobs. I request parents and students just to enjoy this amazing art as a hobby. It’s a stress-buster. If you’re really passionate and back it with lots of hard work, it will automatically become your profession. Nothing can stop it.

Who among today’s public figures are a cartoonist’s delight?

Normally cartoonists get used to all prominent public figures in the news. Looking back, I realised we haven’t drawn many people from the BJP even when it is in power. That reflects how Modi Sarkar has been Modi’s Sarkar. We were mostly drawing Modi, Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley! I can draw them even without looking at their photos. Another regular was Rahul Gandhi. But he isn’t an easy face to draw. Cartoonists miss Lalu and Advani, who used to be a delight.

* Cartoon Sarkar, Hum and Them, Rs 250 each, Vibhinna Ideas, Prema Complex, Opp Parijatha, Main Road, Kundapura, 576 201. email-vibhinnaideas@gmail.com.
Phone: 96861 09573

(Published 19 March 2019, 12:35 IST)

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