‘Cartoons convey information more easily than the 10-page long written texts’

Cartoonist Dopiaza, real name Kazi Abul Kashem, was the first Muslim cartoonist in the Indian subcontinent. He passed away on August 7, 2003. New Age’s Mehedi Haque had the rare opportunity of interviewing this prolific professional, a piece that was originally published in Unmad. Here is a translation of the original interview.

You are the first Muslim cartoonist of this subcontinent. Why did you choose to be a cartoonist during an adverse era?
007This does not have any short explanation. Every human being has their own choice and they want to involve themselves in work that they find appealing since their childhood. I was interested in drawing from my childhood, often drawing in school notebooks. I drew the first cartoon of a skinny man; he was a handsome guy and later how he became skinny because of smoking. This was the theme of my first cartoon.

When was your first cartoon published?
That was published in Saogat newspaper of Calcutta in 1930. Mohammad Nasiruddin, the editor of Saogat, inspired me. Many people praised me for the cartoon.

Did you face any problems drawing political cartoons at that time?
No. During the British era, I did not experience any problems. But I received threats for a cartoon during the Pakistan regime. The theme of the cartoon was a cow eating paddy in East Pakistan, but it was milked in West Pakistan. As I was threatened after publishing the cartoon, I had to relocate my house.

We heard that you were a part of the team who drew wall cartoons against the British?
No. I was not involved. I cannot even recall clearly because of age.

Who else drew cartoons after you, during the Pakistan era?
There were some who started drawing cartoons at that age. Now I can recall Rafiqun Nabi who started at the time. He was inspired by me, as he said.

Was drawing cartoons at that age economically helpful?
No. The environment was not convenient for taking drawing as a profession. There was no lack of inspiration but it was not economically helpful.

Which part of the cartoon did you emphasise on: sanglap (dialogue) or drawing?
008Drawing. Sanglap may come occasionally to aid the objective behind the drawing. But the cartoon needs to speak for itself. In fact, sanglap and drawing is a mixture in this regard.

Critiques say that political cartoons are temporary because today’s cartoon may be of no value the day after tomorrow. But gimmick cartoons always have timeliness compared to the former. What is your stance on this?
You cannot define it in this way because the whole universe is changing every moment. Cartoon is also not static. Every cartoon has its own timeliness. The timeliness makes it a part of history. Cartoon is like literature. It never becomes old.

In this age of computer, the spheres of cartoon are expanding. How do you evaluate this?
It is good. But the hand-drawn cartoons are always admirable. There was an animated cartoon at our age.

What time was this?
That was around 1946 when I worked for N Mitra and Companies. Nolini, a colleague of mine, worked with me. Once Nolini went to Bombay and came across a director who planned to make a cartoon film. When the director learnt about me from Nolini, he came to Calcutta.
The name of the animation film was Sabas and the main character was Sheikh Chilli. We had to work really hard. We had to make around 22 to 24 drawings for every second. In that unit, I was the only Muslim cartoonist.

How do you perceive cartoons?
There are various cartoon types. Some of them entertain us while some others criticize social ills. I prefer to define these as social cartoons. It is also like a parody song, which constitutes an important theme.

How do you evaluate the cartoons of present age?
There have been numerous cartoons with quality. But most of them lack depth. A strong theme is very necessary for a cartoon.

How do you evaluate cartoon as a medium of conveying information.
It always tops the list because cartoons convey information more easily than the 10-page long written texts.

Have you gone through ‘Unmad’? What is your evaluation regarding this?
Yes. It is good. It is indeed fascinating that such a cartoon periodical has been continuing its publication for such a long period of time.

Do you want to say something to the cartoonists of this age?
I suggest that every cartoonist should have a sense of ‘wit’. They have to understand that it is a parody. In regard to cartoon, the most important factor is theme or idea.

Do you think that you and your contribution have not been evaluated properly?
I have achieved literature academy prize. I also won four gold medals. But some of my friends say that I should be awarded Ekushey Padak because they say that many less eligible people compared to me have been awarded the prize.
– Translated by Mahfuzul Haque

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