A debate of sort is currently going on in the country about “cartoons”. It is interesting for some, disappointing for others, frustrating for the intellectuals and confounding to the editorial writers of the newspapers. The grandstanding cartoonist too has started reviewing the political correctness of his object of ridicule and language.His diffidence is of greater interest, for a newspaper is known for the quality of its cartoons as a film becomes popular for its music. However, the infection is different this time. The Frankenstein Monster created by a political establishment too deficit on ethical governance is found by it simply uncontrollable.A cartoon in a class XI book prepared and published by the government body is at the centre of a controversy created by politicians, even without any ground for grievance. But since it is the Monster, nobody has the guts to stand upto it. Meanwhile the civil society enjoys the embarrassment brought on itself by the political establishment which has conveniently ignored the prayers of the civil society so far. However, this controversy has raised another issue incidentally.
What does a cartoon do? Tickle us? Create humour? Ridicule, deride or criticize? So long as a cartoon aims to create humour, it is welcome to all. But the moment it tries to ridicule someone, it offends.If it is lampoon, satire, slander, defamation, innuendo, contempt on race-religion-caste-language-gender-region etc basis, it is no cartoon.It is less than correct use of the sting of a cartoon.One would be justified in criticizing others if there is no one like him. The cartoonist can hardly qualify for that moral high, being the receiver of numerous favours from the establishment. He comes to know about these favours when struck by the establishment suddenly. The establishment strikes in unknown ways that make its authority known and also holds a mirror to the cartoonist.
I feel,comedy is superior to tragedy.The cartoonist might be in a humourous mood, but the establishment knows well its painful nerves, being aware of all the big and small tragedies of life of a cartoonist. Comedy demands complete “neutrality”. Is it possible to be completely neutral? In tragedy, the viewer or audience,”identify” themselves or their personal tragedies with the drama or the dramatis personae.Does anybody like to identify himself or herself with the comic figure or the cartoon character? What happens to the process called “universalisation”? Why does universalisation not take place in a comedy or a cartoon? How come nobody wants to be the “protagonist” of a cartoon? Why do the identifiable people in real life take offence at cartoons? Why does a cartoon fail to tickle them too?
Perhaps, it is so because pain is a universal emotion, but humour may not be . Pain is a daily occurring in the form of poverty, hunger, disease, deprivation or failure in life.As opposed to it, there are few moments in life to experience happiness. Unless the mind is at a level of equanimity, comedy, humour or cartoon can’t be enjoyed. Cartoons are appreciated as an emotion of “revenge”against those perceived by the viewer to be responsible for his/her unhappiness in life. Everyone of us is angry with politicians- for right or wrong reasons. They are either “our” or “their”.The media has depicted them “black”, an epitome of all evil and source of pain generally.A politician is a person who falls in the category of social, political, economic or moral crime. In fact, he/she is the convenient punching bag for all cartoonists !
But let us ponder if that makes the drawer a cartoonist or good cartoonist? Perhaps NOT.Most cartoons fail to qualify on count of “objectivity” and “neutrality”.Let us admit that the humour for the one is pain for the other. Life is no “peaceful co-existence” and if it is “struggle for survival of the fittest”, the “victory” or “defeat”of one set of people(example: politician) hardly provides an opportunity to laugh, unless the cartoonist takes sides and laughs at the misfortune of one set of people only. Cartoons that have withstood for centuries, are live only because of the objectivity employed in drawing them. Comedy, satire, caricature, lampoon etc abound classical literature in all literary traditions. Their humour has survived the long march of time! Their characters are no more alive- only the humour lives. Humour is the best part of life. That is why it is not available in too large a quantity, especially in comparison to pain..
One mild tickle can do what tonnes of medicines can’t !