Published: 23rd December 2020
A cartoonist cannot take sides, they are often sadists: Cartoonists at TNIE's at #DakLF2020
Rohan was speaking at the Dakshin Literary Festival 2020 along with two other artists, Rachita Taneja, creator of Sanitary Panels, and Ashvini Menon, founder Ashvini Menon Visual Design Studio
Should cartoonists have a slant when it comes to their satire? "I don't feel that cartoonists have to take any side. I believe that a cartoonist is never a leftist or a rightist but can be a sadist, said Rohan Chakravarthy, cartoonist and creator of Green Humour, a comic strip related to environment-related issues.
Rohan was speaking at the Dakshin Literary Festival 2020 which is being virtually conducted by the New Indian Express from December 21 to 24, 2020. He was in conversation with two other artists, Rachita Taneja, creator of Sanitary Panels on Instagram, and Ashvini Menon who is the founder and principal designer at Ashvini Menon Visual Design Studio along with the Chief Reporter of Edex, Daniel Thimmayya.
Speaking about the kind of cartoons she draws, Rachita added, "Different cartoons offer different things, satire is the backbone of my cartoon. My work is very heavily reliant on satire, on making fun of those in power." People being the common denominator. That and a healthy dose of humour. Ashvini, whose latest strip World Piece is a witty take on lockdown life, added, "My focus is on people because the government of a country is a major reflection of the kind of society we are ready to live in. With my cartoons, I focus on people's behaviour and what happens around me."
All three cartoonists have different muses where they draw inspiration from. "I know only about the environment and wildlife, I do what I know best. It's not necessary for a cartoonist to take up every battle to fight, I have picked my own. Not all my work is about the environment or politics or governance but a lot of it is about wildlife biology, my muse is the natural world. If anything wrong happens in terms of wildlife governance, in conservation, that's what I choose to draw about," said Rohan.
Ashvini's cartoons revolve around sustainable development issues, things that she observes in the city she lives in. "Throughout my childhood, I have been a wildlife lover. I am quite a shy person when it comes to debating or confronting people upfront, so I silently started drawing these cartoons and that's how the journey began," the young artist added.
Social media has brought in a larger audience for all three but they have all had to face a fair share of trolling. For Rachita, who was one of the earliest proponents of webcomics in India, social media helped her gain a massive following. "I call myself a human rights campaigner. I was using Facebook as a platform to campaign against the Congress government too before the BJP came into power. Sanitary Panels became one of the tools to drive change. One of the drawbacks, however, is the algorithm changes and thus the reach is dependent on the platforms. They are designed by white men in Silicon Valley, it doesn't cater to us as much as it does to white creators, restricting us in several ways. I used to do the comics in a vertical format, now have to do it in a horizontal format for Instagram. The visual format is much better for such platforms but the focus is on the text and concepts, it's simple, minimalistic. It works in my favour when I am making a satirical comment or insulting or something like that," she explained.
Rohan added that he fairs badly with trolls, "It tends to end up in a fight, that's when I disconnect and dissociate." And it is almost always from someone who disagrees with their politics, "I take pleasure in offending people in power. No matter what kind of people are in power I will continue to do that. The BJP happens to be in power now and therefore they are the butt of my jokes. My career began before 2014, my series began in 2010 when the Congress government was in power. There was a lot of cartoons directed at not just conservation but economic policies that neglected funds for conservation. As long as misgovernance continues, this type of cartooning will continue," he added while explaining why cartoonists typically take a dig at anyone to make their work impactful.
However, they all seem to agree on one thing — uncertainty in the future of creative content now that there's censorship on every level almost. "Real threats from trolls are always at the back of my mind," said Rachita. Rohan added, "It does worry me a lot, creative content coming under the purview of the information bureau it's just a matter of time before you know something happens." Is there hope on the hand-drawn horizon? "It's also an exciting challenge if you are smart enough as a satirist you will find a way around it. That's what I aspire to be," he concludes.