Balaji Lakshman’s cartoons are relatable – they take the point of view of a quirky and observant man from the urban cityscape of Chennai.

Thigh maasam to Mad-Eye Moodi Meet the TN cartoonist with a flair for mokkai
news Humour Thursday, January 18, 2018 - 12:36

When we think of Indian cartoons, we automatically think of the late great RK Laxman.

So naturally, my first question to the full-time dentist and part-time cartoonist is about his name. “My name is actually Lakshman! Believe it or not, it was never my parents plan to name me after that great man,” laughs Lakshman Balaji.

His name has proved to be prophetic for this young man’s cartoons have garnered him a following of over 50,000 on Facebook.

How would he describe his art? “It’s stuff I see around me. Most of my cartoons feature my mom, brother, grandfather or my friends. I am inspired by things I see around me.”

It’s true. Lakshman’s cartoons are relatable – they take the point of view of a quirky and observant man from the urban cityscape of Chennai. Most of his cartoons are also extremely ‘mokkais’, which can loosely be translated to a poor joke in English.

He concurs, “A major component is the lame jokes that occur to me.”

Lakshman, who recently graduated from the Government Dental College in Tamil Nadu, started his Facebook page, Lakshman’s Cartoons, out of sheer frustration because he couldn’t tag all his friends in the sketches he was uploading from his personal profile.

The page describes itself as a collection of “hand-drawn cartoons, meticulously crafted mokkai” and has Tamil word play of the kind that Crazy Mohan would be proud of.

“I just started the page for the heck of it. I haven’t spent anything on promoting myself. I do this entirely as a hobby. I’m lucky because people don’t get to pursue their hobbies in this fashion all that often,” he says.

Now, Lakshman is pursuing his higher studies abroad, but that hasn’t stopped him from drawing his light and fun cartoons. But what about the cartoons with political messages that pop up occasionally on his page?

“There are lots of political cartoonists, dedicated to those individuals who are well-informed. I am not one of them. Whenever there is an issue that I can connect with on an emotion level, I try to get my anger across in the cartoon. I stay away from political cartoons, unless I connect with an issue emotionally.”

Sometimes the mokkais are so spot on, one would he think he literally took the words apart and then thought of scenarios around them. He says, “There are some things that I think happens only in my house. My cartoons are sort of semi-biographical. So I put them up; then others relate to it. The principle itself is not to put up something relatable. It just ends up being relatable.”

Asked why he chose to put up his cartoons on Facebook, he says, “I don’t want to spend any money on publishing my cartoons. When I started the page, I had six ideas. There is no fixed scheduled and I was clear that I didn’t want to go the conventional way.”

However, with multiple reports of Facebook’s changing algorithms affecting independent artists, Lakshman too is seeing a decline in his reach. “I didn’t advertise, my page grew by itself. But for the past one-and-a-half to two months, Facebook’s organic reach is declining, pushing us to pay money. Facebook doesn’t seem to be very friendly towards cartoon makers like me.”

To see Lakshman’s cartoons, you can visit his page: @laskmanscartoons