All-round in more ways than one

CARICATURIST par excellence; lawyer by education; Tax Recovery Officer by profession; Cartoonist and caricaturist by destiny: Sajjive Balakrishnan, rotund, genial and epitome of bonhomie, a man of many parts. Sand spread on the floor, walls, the back of an empty cigarette packet _ any blank space and with fingertip, charcoal, pen or pencil, Sajjive works his special brand of magic.

A few deft strokes and `hey presto' he has your likeness with all your personality's quirks, qualities and foibles captured for posterity. Sajjive's talent and genius is evidenced by the fact that he executes a caricature to perfection in under two minutes. Sajjive hails from the less infamous village of Pariyaram near Chalakudy. Primary education was from the local school and higher secondary from Carmel H.S. Chalakudy. After completing his degree form Christ College, Iringalakuda, Sajjive joined the Income Tax Department as an Inspector at Thiruvananthapuram. From early days, though Sajivve can make no claims to a hereditary tradition in the finer arts, he showed promise. His earliest canvases were naturally the walls of his joint family ancestral home at Pariyaram. But, surprisingly, for the times and circumstances, his elders, instead of admonishing him encouraged and promoted his latent talent. Special credit in this regard goes especially to Sajjives's father who was unstinting in his support.

Though he never received any formal art training, a small box advertisement that used to be carried in the popular magazines of those days attracted the budding artist. It was from Santhanu's Cartoon Academy of Madras which promised to teach cartooning by correspondence. Sajjive approached his father with trepidation, seeking support for pursuing the course. His father readily agreed. The course greatly helped him, especially in developing his skill for rendering anatomical details.

All-round in more ways than one

That was not an era of fiercely competitive parents who aspired to bask in the reflected glory of their talented children. So, Sajjive never participated in any competition till he completed his degree.While working at Thiruvan

anthapuram, Sajjive enrolled for his LLB in the evening batch at the Law Academy. During this period he had honed his caricaturing skills and was making friends left, right and centre by executing quick and penetrative caricatures of most people he came across. His friends at Law Academy persuaded him to participate in the Kerala University Youth Festival. Naturally he was adjudged first in the Cartoon/Caricature category. Although Sajjive kept honing his skills attending many Cartoon workshops and rendering caricatures he still continued to be an amateur using his talent only for personal pleasure and to entertain others.

Meanwhile Sajjive got married, was promoted and transferred to Ernakulam. A chance encounter with one Mr. Indrajith, whose caricature was rendered by Sajjive brought about a change in his approach to his skill. Indrajith was an employee of the multinational company Hoechst and his company was one of the sponsors for the Dermatology Conference at Ernakulam in January 2002. Sajjive was invited to render caricature portraits of the delegates. It was an instant success.

All-round in more ways than one

Other such invitations followed and the latest was to render caricatures of the delegates for the just concluded Kerala Travel Mart at Ernakulam.The caricatures executed by Sajjive was much acclaimed and a hot topic of discussion among the delegates. It is not just Sajjive's skill at caricaturing that endears, it is his warm personality, the habit of being able to laugh at himself and above all his innate ability to interact and put people at ease. An ardent lover of all forms of music Sajjive is lucky in marriage too.

Lekha Nair, Sajjive's wife is also a very talented person. A post graduate in music, she was also a consistent first prize winner for both classical and light music during her studies, for the Kerala University Youth Festival. Lekha is an accomplished singer who is classified as a 'B' high-grade artist with both AIR and Doordarshan. Innumerable songs of her's have come out under different labels. She has sung for over 35 Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam film songs. The films for which she has sung in Malayalam include Kaliyoonjal, Ente Ponnu Thamburan, Thooval Kottaram, and Nakshatrakkannulla Rajakumaran Avanundoru Rajakumari.

She has mainly sung under the baton of Elayaraja. Sajjive has the good fortune of having rendered live the caricature of such eminent personalities like Abu Abraham, Mario Miranda, Cartoonist Kutty, the late actor Krishnankutty Nair, Chovvalloor Krishnankutty, K. Karunakaran etc. Among his caricature Sajjive's favourite is one in which Padmasree Yesudas is singing with Sajjive accompanying him on the mridangam and Lekha on the violin, Yesudas has autographed it with the words, `God is love'.

Sajjive's success as a caricaturist lies in his innate ability to strike instant rapport with his subjects and also the fact that his art will appeal even to the least aesthetically inclined. Settled in Ernakulam, this talented couple has a two-year-old son Siddharth.