Features Sunday, June 07, 2015 - 05:30
It may only be cartooning that lets someone make a career out of being political and cheeky, and 27-year-old Rohan Chakravarty has set out to do just that, after giving up dentistry for the love of art. Hailing from Nagpur, Rohan says “the only professions worthy of being called professions are thought to be medicine, engineering and law. I happened to stray into the former. This tigress I met at my first serious safari in Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary proved to be my guiding star and opened up a whole new canvas for me to explore as an artist - wildlife.” When he was studying to be a dentist he came up with the idea for Green Humour, a website dedicated to environmental and wildlife cartoons. After he quit the course he got a job as an animation designer for a multi-media firm in Bengaluru while he drew cartoons in his spare time. “But then assignments for IT firms had started to pour in to my day job, and with them mundaneness, so after three years of convincing myself, I finally gave it up and gave full-time cartooning the shot it deserved,” Rohan says, adding that so far, it paid the bills.  Initially, his family was skeptical. “But now they just feel fortunate that I’m not a dentist anymore, because I could well have been behind the bars on grounds of medical negligence, considering all the faulty tooth fillings I had done as a student!” he jokes. Surf Green Humour and there is everything – from a slapstick and cheeky “11 Ways to Seduce Your Mate – A Courtship Guide by Wild Animals” to cartoons critiquing companies that sell genetically modified foods, and others accused of causing ecological damage through oil exploration. And he’s not shy about naming names. Asked about his politics, Rohan says that he would prefer to let his cartoons speak for themselves. “Cartoons differ from articles or films in a way that they do not feed their readers with thoughts or opinions but encourage them to form one.” On whether political cartoons had any takers, he said: “There isn’t much hope these days for free speech, since any criticism even about the country’s favourite politician is generally stomped upon.” Despite this, he considers himself lucky because a recent cartoon that “criticized the mad rush for ‘development’ by the ruling government and the unabashed moulding of environmental laws to suit this purpose” was prominently carried by a newspaper that runs his fortnightly cartoon. He adds that companies like Shell were a cartoonist’s dream as the firm’s name “allows a lot of permutations and makes the act of poking fun at their activities a lot more enjoyable”. Athough he has now shifted back to Nagpur, Rohan is attached to Bengaluru which was his home for four years when he was an animation designer. “The vast circle of wildlife enthusiasts and professionals that Bangalore boasts of meant a growing local audience for my work, along with constant support and encouragement,” he says. The Garden City also hosted his first solo exhibition in September 2014 and which turned out to be a “bumper” success. “I owe a lot to this city, its people and its idli-vadas, for seeing me through,” he says. Asked about cartoonists he admires, in a typically cheeky response, Rohan said: “I credit my late pet dog, Naughty, for giving me a sense of humour in the first place.” It is only then, that he lists out the artists – Genndy Tartakovsky, the creator of "Dexter’s Laboratory" and Chuck Jones and Hanna-Barbera  who gave "Tom and Jerry" to the world, and Gary Larson, an American cartoonist whose single-panel cartoon The Far Side was widely syndicated.  Rohan says that he cannot imagine giving up his art. “Quite frankly, I don’t know much else to do,” he says, adding rather dramatically that “Cartooning could be given up only if I either completely run out of ideas or am gunned down by the wildlife mafia some day for being overtly offensive to them (since they’re the equivalents of terrorists in my line of work).” Although he hasn’t listed Bill Watterson as an artist he admires, his response to a question on what cartooning means, reminds one of the eternal trouble-making and political six-year-old Calvin. Rohan says: “For me, the most earnest purpose of drawing cartoons is to make some mischief every day and feel good about it. To have retained the maturity of a six year old while attaining a skin of twenty seven is a feat only a cartoonist can achieve.”
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