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Nothing ‘comical’ about it!

By Sumit Kumar, Author, The Itch You Can’t Scratch

You might’ve heard about Cartoonist Pran (Chacha Chaudhary) or Anant Pai (Amar Chitra Katha), but I am sure that you wouldn’t have ever heard about Shehab.

Shehab was one of the many causalities of this interesting and joyful field of Comics and Graphic Art. He was an artist and a writer who created characters like Lamboo Chottu, as well as some great work with a variety of publishers.

He was witty; his style was bold and had a simplistic, yet modern feel to it, which at that time was unique. As most of his contemporaries were busy drawing “broad-chested” superheroes. If you just think back, you’ll realize that you have read something created by him for sure.

Earlier this year,  I approached, Diamond Comics to get in touch with Shehab, so that we could invite him to the 1st Annual Indian Comics Convention. We were sending invites to all major illustrators as we wished to honor them at the convention.

However, I was told by Gulshan Rai, the owner of Diamond Comics that Shahab died a long time ago. He told me further that he used to live in a small chawl in Mumbai, and he had no family.

Nobody knows when he died, how he died, what his condition was. We have no information about any unfinished works, all the knowledge he learnt from experience is lost.

And that doesn’t mean Cartoonist Pran had an easy career either. He might have been immensely popular, but he had to go through his share of hardships in the beginning. And during most of his later years, actually till now he has been working completely alone, with no regular interaction with young artists. He doesn’t know what new artists are working on and no young artist can benefit from his experience of all these years.

Most of us enter comics for the joy of it. It’s the most important reason for entering this medium, but as soon as you start you face this terrible situation. As a young artist, you can only dream of meeting famous artists and learning from them, utilizing the years of knowledge they have gained from experience.

As a full time artist/writer, Comics is not a stable profession. You have to always keep working, especially if your food comes from it. That leaves one with no time to learn more, or be ill if you’re from a really modest background.

Comics and any of its future forms will see growth if new people enter it. Young students will only enter this medium if it is considered a stable profession, also if they find the opportunity to learn.

But I am really afraid, I commonly use the term ‘papa ka petrol pump’ to refer to individuals from affluent backgrounds, the kind who don’t have to earn their living from what they do. They can relish in the pursuit of art and perfection.

Mere papa ka petrol pump nahi hai and comics, my choice of profession, is not stable. There are strong chances that I might end up in a mess.

My best bet is to work hard for others, for the young guys out there who need resources and create a connect between the professionals working in the medium and sharing the work of the senior guys who have done great work, so that everyone works co-operatively, for profit.

There a dire need for people to realize the enormous potential that comics possess and their effect on other entertainment mediums. We have seen in the past decade, the biggest films, animated shows, games have all been developed through comics, using established as well as new characters. The potential is enormous.

We are starting to see it even marketers use comics as a tool to reach out to the public, one great example is ‘Paandi’, a comic book by the Chennai Super Kings, which was launched as part of its marketing plan.

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Views Expressed here are personal.

Writer’s auto-introduction: “I've been thinking in a fun way and drawing that way too from a long time. Since my 2nd year of college I wanted to be cartoonist, and being a cartoonist was not easy...because I am not an art student, I am not bengali and no one in family has ever been in creative business, plus I am very confused and afraid. So it took me a long time to finally say - yes I can write a book! I am Sumit, I write and draw, mostly humor, I like humor in all its forms, including stand up.”

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Comments (2)
  • Meghana- 7 years ago

    Thats an excellent article! But 'i'm not a Bengali' Cracked me up!

  • Zaheer- 7 years ago

    Shehab Ji was indeed a brilliant artist who didn't got the name/fame and of-course a financial condition which he certainly was deserving during his life time. Shehab ji rose above from a poor family working right from childhood to keep both ends meet,he even worked as carpenter during his struggle.His struggle reflects from his characters also as Chhotu-Lambu were a simpleton facing daily hardships of life which they tackle comically. Shehab ji lost his legs in a tragic train accident after which he didn't lived long and left for his heavenly abode few years back.