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Budding cartoonist

A bundle of artistic talent, Gunjan Ashtaputre, is passionate about drawing. This 13-year-old drew cartoons for the First Asian Children's Film Festival Newsletter and is working on an art series of `Jokers' and a comic.

JOKER SERIES: The drawings will be exhibited shortly.

DURING THE First Asian Children's Film Festival, one small pair of hands worked through the nights to produce images that made everyone smile on each day. This pair of hands - working on an extraordinarily active imagination and ready wit unusual for that age, was that of 13-year-old Gunjan Ashtaputre, an 8th standard student of St. Anthony's School.

ART AND CRAFT: Gunjan with his painted lamp. — Photos: P.V. Sivakumar

Gunjan drew cartoons for the Festival Newsletter brought out each day by the Children's Film Society A.P. It is a pity thathe was caught up in the school routine and so he missed most part of the festival - and was away from public glare.

Gunjan's illustrations had the classic touch of an ace cartoonist. There was, for instance, the illustration of a small boy and girl running with a huge roll of film with a flower in their hands and smile on their faces - this was the `border' of the newsletter pages. The first page of the newsletter had a cartoon by Gunjan each day. Picture this sample - a cycle stand at the entrance of the hall where the films are being screened, with even the cycle handles turned towards the entrance ! Or another, showing a small boy and a girl throwing their bags on a pile of school bags and running to catch the film.

CREATIVE CARTOONS: Drawn for the Asian Children's film festival.

Each of the cartoons drawn by Gunjan related to some aspect of the festival. Ask him when he learnt to draw, or when did his interest in drawing develop, and he quips, "from birth"! And it is not surprising because both his parents - mother Daya and father Sanjay Ashtaputre are artistsfrom the J.J. School of Arts, Mumbai. Each wall of their typical Maharashtrian home has a painting or an illustration by Gunjan, or his elder brother (the late Sarang - who succumbed to an undiagnosed illness last year), or his father Sanjay.

Gunjan says, "I was inspired by my father." What does he like more - drawing cartoons or painting? "Both - I like water colours and also like to sketch with pencil. If father gives me a canvas, I just love to fill it up." What about his ambition? "I want to do three things - I want to be an artist, a scientist and to work with the NASA, if possible." The `if' is because, "I don't concentrate so much on my studies!" Says his mother, Daya, "even his examination question papers are filled with drawings - at times I get bugged." "Whenever I get bored, I draw cartoons, jokers, funny things, or still life," Gunjan adds. He has won a lot of awards for his drawing. Gunjan has other interests too. He learns the tabla from guru Ramesh Kulkarni and collects coins, stamps and G.I. Joe toys . How did he choose the subjects for his cartoons at the festival? "I thought many children would be seeing films - so I made a small boy on a cycle going to see the film, initially. Then I filled up the page with a lot of cycles in a cycle stand. School children would love to watch films instead of studying. So I made a schoolboy and girl throw their bags out and run to watch a film. Then I was told children are directing their own films, so my father gave me an idea to sketch a small child directing a man - directors sometimes bribe child actors withchocolates - so I showed the child director promising the man chocolates if he acts well."

IMPROMPTU ART: Done in a jiffy.

Among his favourite cartoonists are his father, R.K.Laxman and himself! For Gunjan, good cartoons "should relate to the topic, and people should laugh as soon as they see them. There must be expressions in characters' faces, some action, dress and a clear background of the story ." His art activities are encouraged by his school. His mother, Daya adds, "these days you hardly find a school where drawing or art is part of teaching. There is an element of art in very child and it should be encouraged."

Gunjan is now busy writing a comic, which he hopes to bring out when completed. He has written an adventure story of a Markman, who takes trouble to find a goldmine - which is nothing but a banana plantation, for bananas are more precious in that land than gold! He has also written a sequel to Gulliver's Travels - wherein Gulliver lands in Candy Land where he is accidentally involved in a smuggling racket and is sent to India where he meets a mechanic and the story goes on with his travails. There is a funny twist in the tale too. Gunjan loves to read Harry Potter and Charles Dickens . And among actors he loves Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, and Akshaye Khanna. He holds dear his brother Sarang's collection of 400 books.


Gunjan plans to come out with an exhibition of his Jokers series - and the venue? "May be on our terrace or at Ambadas Mahurkar's Kala Mandir," he informs. He has an overactive imagination and a funny bone to supplement it. But what makes him laugh? "My father's jokes, and when my father makes some sculpture and it turns out to be odd-shaped, I laugh."

Among his many coloured dreams is to turn himself into a flying machine, or to have wings or a flying boat. In the meantime, he is happy among his myriad creative images and colours, like his parents, and going to school, like any other 13-year-old.


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