“Caricature – a picture, description or imitation of a person in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.”
Colloquially also labeled as cartoons, the word “Caricature” comes from the Italian words “Carico” and “Caricare”, translating ‘to load’ or to ‘exaggerate’. Having gained momentum since Italian siblings Annibale and Agostino Carracci applied this semantic to their proportionally blown-up portrait sketches in the 1590s, caricature today as an art form enjoys exclusive social appreciation worldwide.
While India has a vast history in the evolution of its art, transition in the consciousness of modern-day caricature here came to be at different times and places through the course and context of Indian politics, particularly as India’s independence movement gained momentum through print.
The British Punch had begun to print and circulate Indian vernacular editions in colonial India since the 1870s. Soon, an increasing number of Indian artists began to make their presence felt in print and caricatures started to take nationalistic tones as their impact on the movement came to be realised.
Fast forward to contemporary times, illustrators and caricaturists are increasingly flourishing across the landscape of Indian design. Here are 11 of these noteworthy caricature artists:
Bharat KV is the founder of BKV Arts as a caricaturist. His works present a light-hearted, vibrant and easygoing approach to things. He does this using multiple shades of bright colours fused with a particular emphasis on expressions. One can easily grasp the nature of his subjects without having to worry about whether they know the actual personalities in reality or not.
A BFA from Sir J. J. Institute of Applied Art, freelance Illustrator and Visualiser Chetan Patil from Mumbai has worked with Hindustan Times Newspaper and CreativeLand Asia. His caricatures are deeply graphic with the use of sharp colour tones, shapes, fonts and geometry. Unapologetically un-minimalistic, he mixes a range of complex elements within one frame. Almost a ‘not for the faint hearted’ kind of boldness in depiction.
Keya Mahata is a caricature and a concept artist presently working in a gaming production company. Her work exclusively features many-an influential fantasy and real-life women representing and exuding inspiration. Colours full of life and vigour, though with subtle lighting, represent the essence of her style. The dominance of the characters against their surroundings is a constant across her range of work, largely influenced by gaming.
Manoj Sinha is currently associated with multiple Indian newspapers at the Hindustan Times group. His caricature works include not only portraits but also full-length representations of characters. Unhesitating to draw them as he sees them, he is a keen advocate of pencil-work in his displays. Though seeming to stem from a considerable influence of politics, his work also includes global influencers from various other areas such as sport, film and the likes.
A self-taught caricaturist, Mahboob Raja’s nature of work features diverse mediums in the form of watercolour and oil works, both digitally and on canvas. Apart from having being an illustrator art teacher, he has been associated with making some popular Indian animated TV commercials. Raja’s caricatures significantly bear the strong application and impact of watercolour effects in his interpretation of personalities, adding a touch of innocence to his subjects as a whole.
Prasad Bhat is the sole proprietor of Graphicurry, an independent artist design studio based in Bengaluru. His caricatures prominently exude a strong presence and application of digital elements, leading to a graphic comic-like presence. Prasad’s work predominantly features characters from a seemingly strong influence of many-an-international TV series, films and celebrities – Pulp Fiction, Friends, Brad Pitt and the likes. The use of deep, high contrasting colours uniformly exists across his depictions.
After long being a visualiser in an advertising agency, Mumbai-based, Ramanjit Kaur Gabri turned into a freelance illustrator and caricature artist. Her choice of subjects prominently features many-a-powerful women in clear reflections of their real-life personas – Saina Nehwal, Sudha Murthy, Mary Kom, Arundhati Roy and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw to name a few. Equally effective in pencil and colour, Ramanjit’s portraits are dynamic depictions against contrastingly no-nonsense plain backgrounds.
A Fine Arts graduate from KSS School of Arts, Kottayam, Shijo Varghese started his career as an art teacher in his native village. The illustrator now based in Bengaluru is not shy to take outright liberty with asymmetrical geometric interpretations of his characters. His caricatures unapologetically present personalities beyond their socially perceived aura of “perfection”. Having authored three books, he now heads the design department at Planetsurf Creations.
A Bengaluru-based caricature artist and Flash animator, Shesh Kiran, bears a decade of experience working with various multimedia outfits. Fun and quirky with vibrant colours, his characters come alive not just through their wide eyes and keen expressions but also through a keen amplification of their persona by effectively incorporating related accessories and surroundings elements as part of them. Simplicity that would especially appeal to the childlike; the not-so-serious kind.
Mumbai-based freelance Digital illustrator and caricature artist Uday Mohite’s strong depiction of hyper-realism evokes a mixed feeling of looking at a painting, sketch and photograph at the same time within a single frame. Caricatures of his subjects are not typically limited to the political arena but make for a good mix of characters from all around, especially film, television and social situations. The Sir J. J. Institute of Applied Art grad has also been a part of several leading newspapers like DNA and Mid-Day.
Varun Rao, identifying himself under the title of Vartoons, features portraits of various forms – humans, animals, pop art and so on. Mostly influenced from real life, he exaggerates facial features while attempting to bring the desired effect upon the viewer. With a conscious effort to maintain the primary essence of the character, he highlights significant traits, be it the comical or elegant sides. Acrylic paints, oil paints, colour pencils and digital mediums are his usual ‘weapons’ of choice’.