Today we hear from Green Humour creator Rohan Chakravarty!
How did you begin your career as a cartoonist? When did you start cartooning?
Circa 1995: A brand-new TV channel is launched on Indian television and takes the kids of the country by storm. Everyone looked forward to the final ring of the school bell to rush home, but 1995 onward, there was this TV channel to rush home to! It may not have impacted the lives of my schoolmates as much, but it was well on its way to changing my life forever (the first “forever”. I’ll come to the second “forever” in a bit). I found myself not only engrossed in its shows, but also creating little stories of my own and adapting the characters of the TV shows I watched into my plots. Cartoon Network was here, and with it, cartooning had entered my life.
Fast forward to 2003: A friend of my dad brainwashes a 16-year-old me into believing that drawing cartoons is not a career option and that “grown-ups” must have “real jobs” like medicine, engineering and law. Dejected, I join the rat-race while cartooning is shut in a box locked up in the attic. Eventually, I make my way into a dental college, start filling and extracting teeth aimlessly and lifelessly, often secretly venting my frustration out on the dentures of my poor patients (fake teeth are real fun to punch!).
Moving on to 2005: I am on my first serious safari in Nagzira Tiger Reserve, Central India, and within twenty minutes of entering the gate, I behold a sight that would change my life forever (now this is the second “forever”) — a gorgeous tigress bathing in a waterhole. Females in bathtubs have changed the courses of many a plot in movies (remember Hitchcock’s “Psycho” and Kubrick’s “The Shining”?) and my life was no exception, just that the female in this case was a different species and this was no movie. This tigress had introduced me to a whole new, magical world that I had felt a sudden urge to represent on my canvas- wildlife.
It was after that trip that I started reading extensively about wild animals, their ways of life and the threats they face, and attempted to narrate them as cartoons and comic strips. Living in Central India — the land of the tiger — was an added advantage, as I had wildlife right at my doorstep (often literally!). Within a few months, the strips started getting noticed and debuted in the print as a part of Sanctuary Asia, a leading wildlife magazine published from Mumbai, India. In 2009, my brother (now a wildlife biologist) suggested that these cartoons needed a platform online, which led to the birth of my website www.greenhumour.com. In 2010, I finished my dentistry degree and the day I stepped out of college, I swore never to look back at it again! Over time, while I served as an animation designer for a multimedia firm in Bangalore (South India), I wrote and drew Green Humour in all my free time, which had started amassing a readership both online and in the print, finding itself a part of publications, magazines, journals and one newspaper as well. In December 2013, GoComics chose to syndicate Green Humour online, making it the first series of comic strips from India to be taken up by a major syndicate. This gave me the push and encouragement I needed to quit that darn day job and put all my time into drawing what I loved to draw the most: wildlife.
Drawing wildlife had given me a sense of creative contentment I had never experienced before and I realized that I, an introvert by all means, related better with animals than people. Green Humour also served a dual purpose — while I was having the time of my life drawing wildlife cartoons, it started getting the message of conservation across. Several readers got introduced to issues like poaching, habitat loss and climate change through my cartoons. The experience and the response so far have been gratifying.
What inspires you?
Obviously, wild animals. But inspiration is like a spam phone call that rings when you are least expecting it. Anything from a frog I meet on a trek to a puffin I read about on the Web could inspire a Green Humour panel or comic strip. Also, my late pet dog, Naughty, is responsible for giving me a sense of humour in the first place.
What are some of your achievements and accomplishments?
In March 2012, a cartoon from Green Humour won the first place in the UNDP and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ cartoon contest on climate change in the Asia-Pacific. In November 2012, I was awarded the Sanctuary Asia Young Naturalist Award for my cartoons on conservation. Other than these, I have stood second in a national level cartoon contest organized by a leading Indian daily, and an international cartoon contest on the impacts of social media on people.
What were your favorite childhood comics? What comics do you read today?
Initial inspiration was drawn from cartoons on television, and comics happened a bit later. Watching cartoons on Cartoon Network felt like being tutored personally by the masters themselves — Hanna Barbera, Fred Quimby, Chuck Jones, and later Genndy Tartakovsky and Craig McCracken. I feel that if laughter had an SI unit, it would be Chuck Jones. E.g. “The other night I was watching Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, and I ended up chuckling 120 KiloJones.”
Comics came into my life with Maurice de Bevere’s Lucky Luke and the series that has inspired so many cartoonists the world over — Gary Larson’s The Far Side. Bill Watterson, of course, is Bible, and the artwork in Patrick McDonnell’s Mutts is, to me, a masterclass in itself. I also thoroughly enjoy and am inspired by the work of Sergio Aragones, Mark Parisi’s Off the Mark and the cartoons of The New Yorker.
Do you have any upcoming projects or appearances?
I have always been fascinated by the world of animation, having worked as a pre-production artist myself for three years, and have been looking to combine the principles of character design with wildlife. This has led to the creation of a new sub-series that I call “Wildlife the Toonie Way,” which includes exaggerated and delightful representations of wild animals. I have recently had my first solo exhibition in Bangalore, India, where I displayed 70 of these caricatures, and the event was a bumper success. My upcoming projects include creating merchandise out of these caricatures and introducing them to newer avenues. I also have some interesting collaborations lined up with wildlife and conservation organizations from both India and abroad, to create awareness material with cartoons. Also, there are lots and lots of new comics on wild animals from all around the world coming up on the series.
What’s your studio/workspace like?
I’ve been on the run of late, so I’m just operating out of a shabby little desk. It has a window to the right, where crows, wagtails and barbets often perch in the mornings and narrate the scripts for my comics to me!