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Cartoon is a social-mirror: cartoonist brothers Aswini-Abani

The cartoonist brother duo has found place in the Limca Book of Records

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“In a true sense Cartoon is a social-mirror reflecting the drawbacks of the society in a humourous and acceptable manner without hurting the emotions of any person,” says the Limca Book of records achiever Aswini-Abani, the only cartoonist brother duo of the world. A cartoon is a form of two-dimensional illustrated visual art. Cartoons are non-realistic or semi-realistic drawings or paintings intended for satire, caricature, or humour. Famous Indian cartoonists like R K Laxman, K Shankar Pillai, Mario Miranda, Paresh Nath, Harish Chandra Shukla and many others have conveyed precious social messages through their cartoons, which have ultimately become instrumental in many instances to bring a radical social change.

Background

The concept of cartoon originated in the Middle Ages and first described a preparatory drawing for a piece of art, such as a painting, fresco, tapestry, or stained glass window. In the 19th century, it came to refer to humorous illustrations in magazines and newspapers.

This usage dates from 1843, when Punch magazine applied the term to satirical drawings in its pages, particularly sketches by John Leech. The first of these parodied the preparatory cartoons for grand historical frescoes in the then-new Palace of Westminster. The original title for these drawings was Mr Punch’s face is the letter Q and the new title “cartoon” was intended to be ironic, a reference to the self-aggrandizing posturing of Westminster politicians.

In modern print media, a cartoon is a piece of art, usually humorous in intent. Modern single-panel gag cartoons, found in magazines, generally consist of a single drawing with a typeset caption positioned beneath. After the early 20th century, it referred to comic strips and animated films.

Animation

Aswini
Cartoonist brothers Aswini and Abani

Because of the stylistic similarities between comic strips and early animated movies, cartoon came to refer to animation, and the word “cartoon” is currently used in reference to both animated cartoons and gag cartoons. While animation designates any style of illustrated images seen in rapid succession to give the impression of movement, the word ‘cartoon’ is most often used as a descriptor for television programs and short films aimed at children, possibly featuring anthropomorphized animals, superheroes, the adventures of child protagonists and/or related themes.

Telling about the aesthetic function of a cartoon internationally acclaimed cartoonist duo Aswini-Abani said, “Cartooning is a potential medium in guiding the society in right direction in social-political fronts. Apart from creating public awareness, it helps in addressing the problems relating to such issues.”

Another cartoonist Ramesh Padhi from Bhubaneswar has also identical concept. He feels the aesthetic function of a cartoon depicts the insight of a character. In his language, “Cartoon depicts the insight of a character, happenings and emphasizes the darker as well as the brighter sight of an issue in a perceptible manner.”

So is cartoon can be accepted as a commentary on social and political affairs of the day? “Cartoons may be classified as evergreen or current. The former one reflects the long standing issues and therefore has relevance to the society for years together. Cartoons on environment, corruption, general political trends, gender bias etc. can be taken as examples. However, cartoons on current issues have short period of relevance. Such cartoons whether Social or Political are issue specific and have a sound impact on human minds,” he adds.

Now question arises whether cartoons serve to raise awareness on issues of political and social interest. The cartoonist duo explains, “There are two important aspects in cartooning one is the ‘theme or idea’ and the other is the ‘representation with line-economy’. The theme/idea is the weapon of a cartoonist, actually reflecting the problem. But its representation with minimum lines enables the cartoonist to implant the theme in minds of the readers.”

What are the tools in the hands of the cartoonist to enlighten the public about political and social maladies? Aswini-Abani says, “Cartooning is the simplest mode of representation of complicated socio-political issues. It is therefore evident that a cartoon can depict ideas that can’t be ventilated even by an article/ book.”

Aswini Rath and Abani Rath are two brothers from Bolangir. When asked whether one of them writers and the other draws they said, “No, both of us draw and write the text.” Their first cartoon published in 1989 and soon became famous. They entered the Limca Book of Records as the Only Joint Cartoonist Brother Duo, India. In young age the duo has received a number of prestigious awards and honours from the state, nation and in the international platform. The duo got Western Odisha Youth Icon Award-2014 by PPCA, Sambalpur in 2014, Special Jury Award at Gura Humorului cartoon contest, Romania in 2012, Special Award in the Cartoon Watch Cartoon Competition (National Level), Raipur, ‘Shilpi-Samman’ by Government College of Engineering, Kalahandi, ‘Centurion-Bolangir Award’ at Phoenix-2013 by CSBS (Centurion Univ.) & JITM, Bolangir and many more. They have also acted as judge in a few cartoon competitions inside and outside of the country.

Ramesh Padhi is a freelance cartoonist. His works are based on social issues, education and political satires. When asked how is cartoon a commentary on social and political affairs of the day, he answered, “It spreads the message of social values & political current affairs through the characters.”

So what are the tools in the hands of the cartoonist to enlighten the public about political and social maladies? Ramesh said, “Better representation though brush, knowledge on current affairs and understanding the strong & weak points of characters.”

How do cartoons convey? “Cartoon is humorous. It draws attention of a reader due to its simplicity & perceptibility,” says Ramesh. “It serves to raise awareness on issues of political and social interest as it is easily understandable and humorous,” he adds.

Among the famous cartoonists of the country the name R K Laxman comes in the first line. He was not only a cartoonist but was also an illustrator and humorist. He was best known for his creation ‘The Common Man’ and for his daily cartoon strip, “You Said It” in a popular daily.

The other side

Cartoons certainly bring changes to the society. But cartoonists have to pay big for their works sometimes. We all know about Charlie Hebdo. The French satirical weekly, which features cartoons, reports, polemics, and jokes so far, has been the target of two terrorist attacks, in 2011 and 2015. Both were presumed to be in response to a number of controversial Muhammad cartoons it published. In the second of these attacks, 12 people were killed, including publishing director Charb and several other prominent cartoonists.

In India too, cartoonists have sometimes faced the music for their highly controversial cartoons. Aseem Trivedi was arrested in 2012 on charges of sedition in response to a complaint filed by a lawyer who claimed to be acting in the public interest. A local court ordered Trivedi’s arrest on grounds that his cartoons were designed to denigrate national symbols and spread anger and hatred against the state.

Also read: Propagating plight of migrant labourers through literature

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