Seldom does one find a prime minister at an exhibition and rarely ever do heads of state, three decades old, stand in a row to greet visitors. But at Sudhir Tailang’s retrospective, “Here and Now: Rajiv to Modi” at Visual Arts Gallery last week, cut-outs of Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Behari Vajpayee, PV Narasimha Rao, Manmohan Singh and PM Narendra Modi stood testimony to the cartoonist’s sardonic ouvre. These large standees have now moved to Art Alive gallery, where the exhibition spans the tenures of nine prime ministers.
Tailang’s first victim on canvas was Indira Gandhi and since then “no one has escaped his brush.” Among the works on display is a sketch of a newly married couple’s car with the nameplate Modi 2014, and in another Arvind Kejriwal threatens to resign as chief minister if his demands are not met. Some of Tailang’s cartoons created 30 years ago are relevant even today as they engage with issues of corruption, unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and hunger.
Bikaner-born Tailang was fascinated by comics such as Phantom, Blondie and Tintin as a child and discovered his talent in drawing when he was five. He had his first cartoon published in a newspaper at the age of 10 in 1970. For someone whose biggest ambition was to become a cinema gatekeeper so that he could watch four movies free of cost every day, and get a salary as a bonus, he has come a long way to being a Padma Shri awardee and a contributor to leading dailies in the country.
The 54-year-old says: “The freedom of expression is the life-blood of cartooning. India has a great tradition of free press. This exhibition is a tribute to the art of cartooning. To the Indian democracy.” Tailang believes that episodes of artists being arrested for their cartoons shows there is a growing intolerance among politicians today and cartoons are often used for vote bank politics. “Cartoonists are an endangered species that are not extinct yet. But I am hoping the art of cartooning will come back to life someday,” says Tailang.
The exhibition is on display at Art Alive, S-221 Pansheel Park, till November 15. Contact: 41639000