Tickling the funny bone

Tucked away in a narrow lane a little off the bustling MG Road, is the Indian Cartoon Gallery, the first of its kind in the country. An initiative of the Indian Institute of Cartoonists (IIC), the gallery was created as a space for both amateur and professional cartoonists to exhibit their work.

Says V G Narendra, veteran cartoonist (with dailies like the Kannada Prabha), whose brainchild the IIC is, “we already had a Cartoonist’s Association for Karnataka, but through the IIC we wanted to promote interaction between cartoonists from across India.” He adds, “The gallery is a perfect space to introduce Bangalore to some of the best talent in the country.”

Selection of Cartoons at the Gallery

Selection of Cartoons at the Gallery. Pic: Author.

A visit to the latest exhibition proves him right. Apart from showcasing some of the wittiest cartoons in the country, the exhibit proves to be a brilliant commentary on world history and politics. Right from the Watergate scandal to the Nuclear deal; from feminism to environmentalism the gallery has it all. You are likely to recognize some of the names, like that of Ranga (the Late N.K. Ranganath), Maya Kamath, Mario De Miranda and Unni. You are also likely to recognize some of the cartoons from your morning paper routine. In fact, that was how the gallery came into existence. Ashok Kheny, the Managing Director of the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE), and now the Honorary Chairman of IIC came across a cartoon by Narendra on the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project. Impressed, he offered support for a one-of-its-kind space that would better showcase this underrated art form.

Apart from showcasing big names like S. D. Phadnis, Pran and R.K. Laxman, the gallery also provides new or aspiring cartoonists an opportunity to learn from the best. In keeping with their charter of aims and objectives, the gallery conducts workshops on cartooning for amateurs. All that one requires to be eligible are basic drawing skills. All aspiring cartoonist are first tested, their abilities assessed and then admitted to the workshops. “Cartooning is often not taken seriously; but it is a very tough profession. A good cartoonist must be able to analyse every news story that happens to effectively satirise it,” says Narendra. “Yet there is no proper space for training cartoonists,” he regrets. The workshops take the participants through the history of cartooning and through subjects like caricatures, pocket and political cartoons, cartoon strips, doodles and animation.

Bangalore is only the first of a chain that IIC plans to set up across the country in major cities like Mumbai, and Delhi and also smaller towns like Hubli and Gulbarga. Apart from the display space, they also offer a fully wired 75-seater Conference Hall and plan to set up a library that features books, references and works on cartooning.

Selection of Cartoon at the Gallery

Selection of Cartoon at the Gallery. Pic: Author.

What truly surprises is that the gallery is completely non-profit. Not only are the workshops free of cost, so is the display space. All proceeds from any exhibit sale go directly to the cartoonist with no fee for the gallery. The workshops are supported on sponsorships and donations. “We are looking for sponsors to support our future plans, especially the library but we don’t charge for the workshops as we want it to be open to all,” explains Narendra.

In a bid to create funds they have also begun to offer membership to those interested in promoting the art. The institute offers life membership at a fee Rs.5000. The gallery is open on all working days except national holidays, from 9 AM to 6 PM.

About Bhanu Sridharan 12 Articles
Bhanu Sridharan is a Bangalore-based journalist and aspiring filmmaker.

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