Lakshman Balaji was a toddler when he first started drawing. He says, “I must be two or three years old back then and what I mostly drew was scribbles.” Today, at 23, he is a cartoonist based out of Chennai and gaining popularity across the country.
Lakshman started his Facebook page, Lakshman’s Cartoons in August 2015.He quickly rose to fame with his hand-drawn cartoons of Tamil puns and his hilarious take on life.
“I walk around my city a lot and whenever I see something funny, I try to draw it. I am blessed with a father who has a great sense of humour. I think I’ve got it from him,” he chuckles.
Lakshman’s cartoons draw inspiration from his family and friends. He finds humour in everyday situations and conversations with his father, grandfather and friends. He often features in his own cartoons as a tall man with a twirled moustache.
“My friends complain that I look better than them in my cartoons”, he laughs.
The first caricature Lakshman drew was of his grandfather. “I love the short talks I have with Thatha (grandfather),” he says.
One of his favourites is the one with his father, which is also the cover picture on his Facebook page. Another is the one where his father and his father’s friends, during their time in BITS Pilani, go to a restaurant and order lassi. Because of their tussles with Hindi language, what happened next is still is a funny story.
Lakshman is also the artist behind a recent viral cartoon commenting on racism among Indians.
He is mostly apolitical, but with the cartoon, Lakshman made sure to draw his opinion. It came after the attack on a Nigerian man by a racist mob in a Noida mall. The cartoon got around four million views on social media and with that, a lot of backlash.
“I got some abuse and online trolling for showing Indians as racist, but I chose to ignore it to continue doing what I believe in,” he says.
The cartoon was eventually taken down by Facebook. Though he isn’t sure of the reason, he says someone must have thought of it as a hate cartoon.
Lakshman believes every artist is different. He has grown up reading Asterix and Obelix and still draws inspiration from the comic books as well as from the aesthetics of RK Laxman, Ram Waeerkar and Sergey Elkin. He says, “I am the average of every artist I come across.”
Lakshman also tried his hand at standup comedy in Chennai during his college days, mainly to remove his fear of speaking to a large audience. “Standup comedy is scary,” he says, drawing an analogy with extreme adventure sports.
With his Facebook page gaining more followers every day, Lakshman now tries to keep a check on what he says.
As most of his cartoons are in Tamil, he feels many people may not understand his Tamil puns. “Whatever language comes to my mind, I draw in it”, he explains. He is enjoying the popularity however. “It’s nice to see people recognise my name,” he says.
A dentistry graduate, Lakshman wants to work in the public health sector. He is about to pursue his graduate studies in epidemiology at a university in the US. But drawing is his hobby and he doesn’t plan on giving it up. “Cartooning is something I will never stop, no matter what,” he says.
Check out Lakshman’s Cartoons on Facebook.
Written by Sonali Verma