NL Interview: Cartoonists Manjul and Rachita Taneja on art and censorship

NL Interview: Cartoonists Manjul and Rachita Taneja on art and censorship

Newslaundry hosts the artists for NL Recess.

ByNL Team
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Manjul is a political cartoonist known for his thought-provoking work in leading media outlets such as India Today, Economic Times and DNA. Rachita Taneja is best known for the stick-figure webcomic Sanitary Panels, where she discusses topics of feminism, social justice and the political atmosphere of the country. She recently drew much media attention over a comic critiquing the Supreme Court of India.

In this conversation with Shambhavi Thakur of Newslaundry at NL Recess, Manjul and Rachita talk about their work, politics and activism.

Recalling how he started his journey as a cartoonist, Manjul says it was the killing of former prime minister Indira Gandhi and the political atmosphere created by it that persuaded him to take up the art. On how different it’s being a cartoonist now than in the 1990s, he says, “At that time there was only one way to become a cartoonist, that you needed somebody who could publish your cartoon.”

Rachita explains the idea behind Sanitary Panels and how she came up with the name, saying, “It was initially going to be called Uncle Strips but then I picked Sanitary Panels just because it was really fun to make uncles uncomfortable.”

When he started out, Manjul recalls, cartoonists had excellent drawing skills which meant working with an unconventional style was not easy since there were limited avenues for publication. “Convincing hundreds of editors that this could also be a cartoon was pretty difficult,” he says.

Rachita explains how the idea and the style of including sentences in a simple artwork make her comic distinct. She says, “It's very easy to get straight to the point when you have a very simplistic, non-daunting style, making it accessible.”

Both Manjul and Rachita argue that the essence of a cartoon is the idea rather than the artstyle and that great drawings are just an added benefit. They also discuss the changing political atmosphere in India, the insecurity of the government which leads to censorship, and much more.


Text by Rebecca Varghese.

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