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Remembering Bal Thackeray, the cartoonist

Before he formed the Shiv Sena and enjoyed a political clout that could bring the entire metropolis to a halt, Bal Thackeray was known for his political cartoons.

Bal Thackeray's cartoon

The seeds of Thackeray's political career were probably sown when he drew cartoons for Marmik, a weekly publication.

The magazine, which Thackeray used to edit, celebrates its golden jubilee this year.

As part of their celebrations, the magazine authorities are organising an exhibition of select political and social cartoons by the Shiv Sena supremo between August 13 and 16 at Ravindra Natya Mandir in Prabhadevi and Gadkarai Rangayatan in Thane.

"Balasaheb gave his humorous touch to all political and social situations that arose during his time through his cartoons," said Pandha-rinath Sawant, executive editor, Marmik. "One can study the bygone era from the cartoons that will be on display."

He added that the features to look out for in the cartoons are edgy satire, sarcasm and caricatures of some of the most important leaders of Indian politics.

Saamna effect

Shiv Sena and its mouthpiece Saamna evolved from Thackeray's political cartoons.

After the newspaper launched in 1989, the cartoon weekly took a backseat. Since then, it has evolved into a general entertainment magazine.

Bal Thackeray's cartoon

Weapon for a cause

"The cartoons were the biggest weapons we had to fight for the Marathi cause. 

That is where the political movement began. Politicians in Maharashtra used to worry what Balasaheb would say about them through his cartoons.

Today, we follow the same philosophy in Saamna," said Sanjay Raut, executive editor, Saamna.

For someone who has had no formal training in art, Thackeray's cartoons don't, in any way, lack creativity. They reflect his in-depth knowledge of Marathi literature and awareness of civic, national and international events.

"It is not possible for a cartoonist to match his standards today. He would spend an entire week thinking about the subject of his cartoons," said Sawant.

It wasn't surprising that when Winston Churchill's biography was published, Thackeray was asked to contribute six of his cartoons.

Bal Thackeray's cartoon

Cartoonist speak

Cartoonist Hemant Morparia said, "The cartoons show his flair for wit and drawing. He is a tiger, so even his cartoons have a lot of bite.

He uses the cartoonist's license in the political area. It is evident in his speeches where he uses humour to engage audiences."

Subhash Desai, senior Shiv Sena leader, agrees. "He is a sharp observer and his wit has no competition." 

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