Speaking Lines, an exhibition of cartoons by brothers Abani and Aswini Kumar Rath, shows what can be done with a love for art

Abani and Aswini Kumar Nath are brothers bound as much by ties of creativity as by blood. In a first ever in the world of Indian cartooning, Abani and Aswini work in complete harmony, without any creative differences, on a single cartoon. They each contribute in their unique way to the drawing of a cartoon. Around 70 of their striking cartoons and caricatures, with sure and bold strokes and intermittent splashes of pink, yellow and blue adorn the walls of the Indian Cartoon Gallery.

Abani and Aswini Kumar Rath, hailing from Odisha, are renowned for their skill as cartoonists, but an unknown fact about them is they research a lot before they sketch. “Cartoonists possess a ‘third eye', so to speak. They are capable of picking the absurdities, abnormalities and anomalies of society, without being offensive. They project them as humorously as possible,” says Abani, who works as an officer in a nationalised insurance corporation.

Technique is important for the cartoonists. They explain the reasons behind naming the exhibition “Speaking Lines”.

“A cartoon is an amalgamation of lines. The distinguishing feature of a cartoon is the sharpness of lines. We work with brushes and take the help of watercolours to visually represent the various aspects of society,” explains Abani. The duo barely uses computer graphics. Aswini says that they use it only as a filling. “We have more confidence in ourselves than the machine,” Aswini, the elder of the two, laughs and says.

The cartoons aren't only on political issues. They address a range of other subjects from sports and ecology to science. The duo has had a promising career in cartooning. Their work has been widely recognised. Abani recalls a particularly memorable incident. “We presented a cartoon to Kapil Dev. He was very pleased with it. We got to know that while he was leaving, he left behind all the papers, diaries and other gifts he was presented, except for our caricature of him. He kept it with care in his bag. That made us very happy,” says a smiling Abani.

The duo's first cartoon appeared in 1989 in an Odia monthly. Ever since, their cartoons appeared on the front pages of almost all the leading Odiya dailies. Today, they are both nationally and internationally acclaimed.

A new world view

They picked up their love for cartooning from one of their paternal uncles. “He was excellent at sketching, and with water colours. We understood the basics of drawing from him. As we matured in our art, we developed a different angle of viewing the world, which helped us to present a different dimension to our works,” Aswini explains, who is the head of the botany department in a college in Odisha.

Ask them what subjects they like working on and the duo who are also law graduates, say, “Those who go hungry and have no material comforts. We want to present them in our works as they are representatives of the real India.” The duo's ambition is to spread awareness on cartooning as an art form. “There are many talented cartoonists, but they get few opportunities to exhibit their work. The Indian Cartoon Gallery is the only gallery in India! We need to change this.”

“Speaking Lines” will be on view at the Indian Cartoon Gallery (off M.G. Road) till December 31 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.