Rajinder Puri passes away

NEW DELHI: The sheer power of a cartoonist’s pen in plain black and white form is scary in the art of simplicity.


Junior cartoonists were in awe of the mind and art Rajinder Puri generated. Senior cartoonists joked he wielded a dagger. That was him, the power of his mind, a combo of Vijayan, Abu, Ravi Shankar,

RK and Shankar, so beautifully amalgamated into a synchronized punch. Puri’s mind was pure because he had the anti-establishment mindset years before AAP, that was the power of his mind.

He was very audience conscious in the visual sense — never clutter art to respect the reader. His intellectual cartooning senses were forceful and his columns were equally cerebral and thought provoking. Never has a cartoonist wielded so much power in the pen for sheer impact. I studied his lines and said to myself. Never deviate from the power of the black and white line.

He taught us that cartooning is like a laser thin beam, the sharper it is the more incisive it is. His personalties, unlike Laxman, portrayed the other side devil ethos of leaders, perfect features, powerful metaphors and excellent rendering with the most advanced political mind much superior to columnists who could never illustrate their minds … which he did. That was his power — to write and illustrate your own verbiage.

God bless the souls of these wonderful entertainers and thinkers — Shankar, Abu, Mario, Laxman and Puri and scores of other darlings who left us with pure lines and ethos of humour, thought and introspection.

Courtesy :  ‘Times of India’

Rajinder Puri, ace cartoonist and fierce critic of Emergency, passes away at 80

Veteran cartoonist, columnist and political activist Rajinder Puri died on Sunday night after a brief illness. His friends and family said Puri, who was the founding General Secretary of the Janata Party in 1977, had died peacefully in his sleep.

Born in 1934 in modern-day Karachi, Puri was known for his incisive and critical political cartooning. A close friend said, “He belonged to the great tradition of political cartooning that critiqued and assessed political events through amazing perception.”

Apart from working with the Hindustan Times and The Statesman, Puri had also drawn cartoons briefly for The Guardian in London and The Glasgow Herald.

“At the time, he was working for the Hindustan Times and on more than one occasion, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had complained to JRD Tata about his caricatures. He was possibly the most powerful political cartoonist of the time,” a close friend said.
His friends and former colleagues described him as a journalist who was not only incorruptible, but also always willing to lend an ear to young journalists.

“One would find him sitting regularly at his table at the Indian International Centre. Earlier, he’d sit at the Embassy Restaurant surrounded by young journalists. He would always be willing to listen to young journalists and help them in whatever way he could,” a former colleague said.

A fierce critic of the Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi, Puri was the founding General Secretary of the Janata Party. Later he became the founder General Secretary of Lok Dal, but hadn’t been attached to a political party since 1988.

“He felt that to change the political reality, he needed to be within the system to a certain extent. But later, he became disillusioned and realised that he did not fit in in the world of politics,” Ravindra Kumar, editor and managing director of The Statesman, said.

Puri’s friends said his funeral service will be held at Lodhi Crematorium at 2 pm on Tuesday.

Courtesy :  ‘The Indian Express’

The combative cartoonist

In a matter of weeks, we have lost our second master cartoonist. R.K.Laxman and Rajinder Puri had about as much in common as Pedder Road and Parliament Street. But, between them, they represent a range of cartooning that would do any democracy proud.


Puri was the last of the trio that made Indian cartooning a robust editorial art. He was completely self-taught, unlike the other two, Abu Abraham and O.V. Vijayan, who were mentored by Shankar. On a rare and rapidly reversed personal note, he once said that “brother Rakshat was the artist in the family”; he himself was keener on tennis and wrestling. The last is eminently believable and was in evidence in his cartoons, and no less in the daily debate over the morning coffee, a ritual that travelled over the decades from Embassy and Standard restaurants in Connaught Place to the India International Centre.

No one could have taught this fiercely independent mind anything. He had his own way of figuring things out. Last decade, when Photoshop became the flavour of the newsroom, he mastered the graphic software in his own unorthodox way, which would have made a trained professional squirm. But he chipped and chopped with “the blessed mouse” to tone, colour and texture his drawings as passionately as a cub cartoonist.

Earlier, over the years he had seamlessly transited from brush to dip-pen to throwaway markers through colour pencils and screen tints, all along retaining his trademark style. He insisted that impact mattered more than aesthetics. Through such adventurist fits of retooling, a lesser practitioner would have gone astray. But the power-packed staccato style stayed, and no less the combative tone. This mix in its original form earned him his first big break in 1959, as staff cartoonist with the Hindustan Times, edited by S.Mulgaonkar. The 25-year-old had returned after a stint at The Glasgow Herald and The Guardian in London. He’d later recall “the Fleet Street of Vicky and Searle” where postwar cartooning was beginning to grow out of the gentlemanly David Low mode.

The India Puri came back to was shedding the gentlemanly Nehruvian phase. To begin with, he was no Nehruvian, more of a Lohia-ite who never pardoned the Congress for partitioning the country. But when Panditji died, he came out with a fitting tribute: the cartoon grid filled with human forms that framed a void in the middle shaped like Nehru’s face. It was not blind fury all the way; the man loved Hollywood and Omkarnath Thakur and betrayed a certain slant for Sufism. Of course, with cartooning eyes wide open.

Little wonder then that Puri was among the few editorial commentators to foresee the Emergency of 1975. He had steadily antagonised PM Indira Gandhi through a series of cartoons that suggested a constitutional breakdown. The lady complained about a particularly unsparing one to J.R.D. Tata, the chairman of The Statesman trust. Tata merely told editor Kuldip Nayar to ask the cartoonist “to be a little less vicious in the future”.

Puri knew censors would have no such finesse under the Emergency, which came soon enough. He quit cartooning and became an activist who flirted with the Janata Party and BJP to mercifully return to his core mission: to critique the nation. In fact, beyond the nation. His work had appeared across the length and breadth of the country — from The Indian Express to The Hindu and The Free Press Journal to The Statesman; that wasn’t enough. His book, Recovery of India, is dedicated to the “young people of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh”. Barbed wire is a recurring motif in his work. He wanted to cut across — to Karachi, where he was born.

Courtesy :  ‘The Indian Express’