Interview with political cartoonist Vikas Sabnis

For almost half a century now, Vikas Sabnis has been beguiling people with his cheeky cartoons and caricatures. His impeccable work has earned him numerous recognitions, whereas his popularity stretches as far as The Netherlands.In a candid conversation, the eminent cartoonist looks back on to his glorious journey and also reveals some interesting events in his life. Why did you decide to be a cartoonist? I was an arts student and it was in 1968 when it all began. I used to read The Times of India everyday only because of R.K Laxman. Plus there was this Marathi newspaper Marmik for which Bal Thackeray used to draw cartoons. I was really inspired by not just his cartoons but also his thoughts and depiction of politics. So I decided to be a political cartoonist and learnt cartooning on my own. Do you see Balasaheb as your inspiration? Of course! He was a great inspiration for me. When I was in primary school, I used to go through his cartoons everyday. So following his work helped me develop my own cartooning skills. For how long have you been doing cartooning? This is my forty-ninth year. Next year, I will be completing fifty years in this industry. Why did you choose to be a political cartoonist? It is a thing of passion and I am very passionate about political cartooning. After following Bal Thackeray’s work, I too decided that I will be a great political cartoonist one day and not just in India but also across the world. My friends advised me to become a commercial cartoonist or join a media agency as I would then mint money. However, I wasn’t interested in all of that and political cartooning is what I really wanted to pursue. Has your work been recognised with any awards? There are several such occasions. In fact, I have won not less than 25 awards. Just last year itself, I received the Shah Foundation award, which only three people in Maharashtra have been award with till now and I am one of them. But notably, I have also been bestowed with Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards as well. Did you ever have an opportunity to showcase your cartoons abroad? Yes of course. Back in 1998, I had been to Netherlands to perform a stand-up show on cartooning. I was invited by people from Netherlands to demonstrate live cartooning for which I received tremendous response. How has been your experience of working with Bal Thackeray? When he ceased to contribute for Marmik and entered politics full-time with Shiv Sena, he chose me as his successor. He himself offered me a chance to draw cartoons for his column and that in itself was the greatest award for me. So do you see that as your most memorable moment as a cartoonist? Obviously! It was undoubtedly on of the most memorable moment for me as a cartoonist. You’ve said in your blog that you believe in Global Citizenship. Can you give us an insight into it? My definition of global is not exactly like others. My aim is to reach out to people through my art and make friends. My experience is when I draw somebody’s cartoon or caricature, he becomes my friend, without any formality. And I want to make more and more friends globally, all over the world, and wish to achieve this through art. Is there anything else that you really enamour doing apart from cartooning? I love old Hindi songs and listening to them is my other passion. As a matter of fact, I regularly do a talk show on Hindi music and political cartoons in front of a live audience. For example, I drew a caricature of Sharad Pawar to a Hindi song which described him best. People invite me themselves and pay for the same. Lions club, Rotary club are a few places where I have done this. What are you currently working on? Well everyday I come up with a new cartoon because for me everyday is a new opportunity to do something creative. So I draw one cartoon for English newspaper and one for Marathi newspaper daily.