Out of Line explores the career of ‘graphic satire’, i.e., newspaper cartoons, in independent India (post-1947). It offers detailed analyses of the work of prominent practitioners of the genre, including: Shankar Pillai, R. K. Laxman, Abu Abraham, O. V. Vijayan and the collaborative team of Jug Suraiya and Ajit Ninan.
Chapter 1 reflects on Shankar’s endearing yet thoughtful portrayals of Nehru in his ‘Man of the Week’ series, which addresses the challenges confronting the early years of the republic. In chapter 2, the author deals with Laxman’s character the ‘Common Man’, a usually silent witness who testifies to the complexities of the post-Nehruvian era. Chapter 3 deals with Abu Abraham’s Emergency-era series ‘Private View’, which sought to keep the national conscience alive through this difficult period. Chapter 4 explores O. V. Vijayan’s dark and bitterly ironic graphic world, which deals with the inequities of development and the failures of justice in 1980s India. Chapter 5 takes up the collaborative work of Jug Suraiya and Ajit Ninan, who address the issues and concerns of a more self-confident, post-liberalisation nation, including environmentalism, multinational capital and international warfare.
Christel Devadawson interprets the genre of graphic dissent as a form of national ‘lifewriting’—the autobiographical recording of self, memory and experience—that brings to light the trials and travails of democracy in the young nation-state.