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In the serious business of 'Humour'

In the serious business of
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Sampara Bhima Shankar Kumar, better known as Sanku, belongs to the select group of cartoonists whose work reflects his passion for the 'Art of...

Sampara Bhima Shankar Kumar, better known as Sanku, belongs to the select group of cartoonists whose work reflects his passion for the "Art of cartooning" Aruna Ravikumar Like the famous scientist and author Stephen Hawking who said "I like Physics, but I love cartoons," there are many among us who find that cartoons not only put smiles on our faces but tug at our hearts with the right mix of hyperbole, satire and artistic skill. Systemic failures, endemic corruption, lopsided policies and dreams gone sour can all be addressed with a few strokes and fewer words more eloquently than long essays and unending commentaries.
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Sampara Bhima Shankar Kumar, better known as Sanku, belongs to the select group of cartoonists whose work reflects his passion for the "Art of cartooning". A multifaceted personality who is a writer of humourous short stories, film and television producer and director, Sanku says his passion for cartoons takes precedence over other works that have earned him equal success. Although he initially drew cartoons with his original name, he was christened "Sanku" by Puranam Subramanyam Sarma, the then editor of Andhra Jyothy at Vijayawada, the name that gave him a distinct identity stayed on. Elaborating on the subject of humour, Sanku says "Humour is serious business as it has to be delivered in the right measure and right manner akin to salt that is necessary to impart taste to food. Just as excess salt can ruin a meal, humour without caution can ruin your pleasure" A chartered accountant by training, Sanku hails from Tanuku in West Godavari district but had his education in different places in Andhra Pradesh thanks to the frequent transfers of his father who worked in the Income Tax department.
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As the family moved from Vizianagaram to Nellore through several other postings in between he was exposed to different rural cultures and got interested in studying the culture, tradition practices and way of life in the different regions. Attracted to humour since childhood he was inspired by the works Like "Eppudu Inthe" (Forever this way) and "Budugu" by Bapu and Mullapudi Venkataramana and met them in Chennai. Bapu who was a great influence helped him take to cartooning by giving valuable suggestions and advice. Bapu's guru and veteran cartoonist "Gopulu" form whom he learnt many a nuance of cartooning he says is his "Supreme Guru" (Parama Guru). His first cartoon was published in the Andhra Patrika daily in 1963 after which he went on to win many prizes at the state level cartooning competitions and established himself as a cartoonist of reckoning. Several magazines that were published in the state and the value given to cartoons as a literary form opened up many avenues for talent and recognition in the past as compared to the very few options in the present according to Sanku. Interestingly popular writer Yandamoori Veerendranath and he were put together in one place by their respective fathers who were colleagues in the Income Tax department so that they would get a professional CA degree and job and not waste their time in drawing cartoons and spinning stories. Both of them earned professional qualifications and jobs with the State Finance Corporation but did not give up their calling which earned them greater name and fame.
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"Raja kayyaalu" (Political fights) was a pocket cartoon which was a political satire that Sanku did for the Andhra Patrika magazine. "Venkatesham," a cartoon strip with characters from Gurazada Appa Rao's popular play "Kanyashulkam" had the characters make comments on contemporary social developments. To the question of why he prefers social cartoons over political Sanku says, "Political cartoons are restrictive as they are dictated by the editorial policy of the newspaper. There is more freedom in matters of social comment which also have a wider appeal and I like the canvas that it offers". Sanku made episodes for the Doordarshan national network on selected eminent cartoonists of India which featured several great cartoonists like Shankar, Abu Abraham, R.K.Laxman and others including his Gurus Gopulu and Bapu which he says is a tribute to these great masters. "Kantham Kathalu," which featured short stories by Munimanikyam Narasimha Rao, is what Sanku considers a milestone in his career. Produced under the classic stories project the 13 part series was both a challenge and a satisfying creative experience he feels. The small two to three page stories had to be made into half an hour episodes by additions that did not change the character of the original stories. It went on to win many awards and accolades for the director and the lead actors Naresh and Easwari. Similarly "Amaravati Kathalu" on Doordarshan and "Pasalapudi Kathalu" on Maa TV were extremely popular providing scope for imaginative story telling that captivated the audience. Humourous episodes were made on several channels by Sanku who never forgot his penchant for humour despite giving enough time to classics that represented Telugu culture and traditions. This was the reason that prompted him to produce the successful comedy "Mr Pellam" which again won several Nandi awards and much acclaim. Sanku also published a magazine dedicated to humour called "Hasya Priya" which he brought out successfully for 12 years. He had to close operations during 1992 as he found it economically unviable. With direction production and documentary films taking up his time Sanku's cartoons became scattered till he returned with a bang in the Swathi magazine with the strip "Ee cartoon Meede" (This cartoon is yours). This is now a regular cartoon on the magazine's back cover and a volume of these compilations was released recently with the title "Ee cartoonlu Meevee (These cartoons are yours). His wife Shobha Shankar is a classical singer who was a well known news reader with Hyderabad Doordarshan and has produced many documentaries on famous musicians from the state. Excelling in different media, winning awards at the State, National and International events Sanku is not one to rest on his laurels. He says as a cartoonist he has a prismatic view of life with different insights that motivate him to put down ideas. The urge to tell, and the appreciation of an idea understood is what stimulates him. His philosophy is to look for humour within the lines and to be happy and keep others happy through the trials and tribulations of life.
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