Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Half Century of Cartooning: Yesudasan Turns Seventy

CARTOONIST YESUDASAN turned 70 today. Almost five decades of cartooning behind him, Yesudasan is, no doubt, the best among the contemporary Kerala cartoonists still in the profession. Even at this age, he keeps up a steady flow of good and humorous cartoons.

I first came to see his cartons and illustrations as a small boy, may be eight or nine years old as a third or fourth standard student in a village school, when one of the very few publications available to us at the small library there was Janayugom, edited by the late lamented Kambissery Karunakaran, arguably one of the best literary editors Malaylam has ever had. Janayugom was a gold mine for an avid reader those days, with a good selection of excellent articles, novels, stories and cartoons, etc. My favourite cartoon strip was Haram Moosa by Ghafoor who, later on, simply disappeared from the scene.

Yesudasan, unlike Ghafoor, continued to be an active presence and he left Kerala and joined Sankar’s Weekly in Delhi for some time working with the legendary cartoonist at the national scene. Then he came back to Kerala, dabbled with some small publications of his own, and then has been with Malayala Manorama for all these years. Manorama made him famous and perhaps rich too, though I personally feel that much of his best works may have been done before he joined them, mainly when he was running some small cartoon magazines.

It is too early to predict where he would be in the pantheon of the best and most creative cartoonists Kerala has produced in the post-Independence period. Delhi has always been the best breeding ground for Malayali cartoonists, maybe because it is the political power center and that is where you meet political characters in their elements, fit to be targeted for lampooning. The brigade of Malayali cartoonists in Delhi is legion, from Sankar, O V Vijayan, Abu Abraham, Samuel and Kutty of an earlier generation who are now legends. After these stalwarts appeared people like E P Unny, Ravi Shankar, Ajit Ninan and others and even today Malayali cartoonists of a new generation like Bonny Thomas, Sudheernath, R Prasad and E Suresh keep up this tradition.

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