Cartoonist EP Oni fondly remembers his days as an undergraduate physics student at Victoria State College in Palakkad in the 1970s. During summer vacations, he would travel to Bengaluru with his friends to buy books which were not available in Kerala. The short visits usually preceded a list of desirable posts. Fascinated by the city, he had intended to draw it for years, finally planning a one-week trip in 2019. “These were the sites recommended by friends. There was no specific goal or project in mind,” says Oni, 66, chief political cartoonist. Indian Express.
The set of 11 Garden City sketches comes with nearly 100 political cartoons, published in Indian Express, on display at the Indian Animation Fair in Bengaluru. Seemingly dissimilar, the fine lines of the drawings that separate Bengaluru’s locations may be thinner and more intense than the thick strokes of his caricatures, but when the two come together, it’s a showcase of his diverse involvements as an artist and his myriad pursuits. If the latter demonstrates sarcasm, wit, and commentary, the former brings stillness to bustling city sites, each etched with the time the scheme was drawn. “Some cartoonists love to draw, it rejuvenates the lines. Delhi-based Unny says:
While visiting Bengaluru for decades, he noticed how its demographics have changed from a slow-paced, retiree-friendly city to an education hub and now an IT hub. The viewer participates in this change through his sketches that depict this development in subtle ways. On the other hand, there are the tourist places – the majestic Bangalore Palace with its walls and towers; The neoclassical building of the Government Museum, Bangalore, built in 1877; The flower market in Malieswaram decorated with hanging wreaths and baskets full of roses; Historic Russell Market, built by the British in 1927; On the other hand, the new face of modern Bengaluru – the Baiyappanahalli metro station and the infamous Bengaluru traffic Unny documents outside the Writers’ Association building on the busy St Mark’s Road.
While his travel diaries include views of other cities, including Kochi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram and Chennai, the cartoonist was also a participant and historian of the 2016-2017 Kochi-Muziris Biennale, where he painted live at the event through a three-month period and also had a pocket show of cartoons Indian Express.
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The exhibition taking place in Bengaluru seems inadvertently pushing this show forward. Although there is no correlation, the selection, from 2008 to 2019, depicts how Indian democracy It has evolved since then. When a dominant party runs the country, there aren’t many politicians making the news. This happened at the height of the Indira Gandhi era and again now. But it’s not (Narendra) Modi making much news, it’s Amit Shah. “It’s the Chanakya that gets thrown in the cartoon, and it also makes way for them,” says Oni. He says the exhibition’s cartoons “widely tell the story of the (last) 11 years”. From digging into Prime Minister Modi’s ongoing tour to Congressmen Sonia and Rahul Gandhi counting their allies at the 2015 Iftar, from Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal presenting himself as a middle-class man to poker-faced Jayalalitha announcing alcohol restrictions after taking office as president Ministers of Tamil Nadu in May 2016, the parade is expected to include prominent political faces. Unny P Chidambaram and Nirmala Sitharaman are among the most challenging politicians to draw. “If a part of the face is exaggerated, the resemblance is lost and the caricature fails,” he says.
Aside from the images, political events and issues also appear on the show – from the 2018 farmer’s rally to Delhi, to the 2020 flight ban on comedian Kunal Kamra after he was said to have upset TV news anchor Arnab Goswami on a flight. We are a news-hungry newspaper and graphics need to keep up with the news. As we focus on the latest developments, those developments are also advancing quickly,” says Unny.
Born in Palakkad, Kerala, Unny remembers looking forward to G Aravindan’s satirical animated series Cheriya Manushyarum Valiya Lokavum, which appeared weekly in Mathropumi. In the 1970s, he analyzed the simplicity and subtlety with which Abu Ibrahim depicted “what was happening in the capital” in his cartoons in Indian ExpressConsider Rajinder Puri’s India 1969: A Crisis of Conscience Commented on the Leadership of Congress under Indira Gandhi. As a student, teachers are often the protagonists of his cartoons. But in 1972, Oni drew his first political cartoon, which was published in schenker weeklyAbout the Vietnam War. He soon became a regular contributor to the weekly. This prompted Shankar to send him a letter, dictated to his assistant Ramakrishnan, advising Oni on the basics of drawing cartoons. He’s lost the rhetoric, but Oni still sticks to the advice: to master the art of caricature, one needs to understand the correct analogy before distorting it.