What political cartoonists, stand-up comedians have to say on the recent Maharashtra political crisis

Team Sakal Times
Sunday, 1 December 2019

Thanks to the political developments in Maharashtra over the last one month, political cartoonists, stand-up comedians and content creators on social media platforms have had a great time. Team Sakal Times speaks to some of them

Uddhav Thackeray took oath as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra on Thursday and the government also won the floor test on Saturday. But there were many a slip twixt the cup and the lip! There was a stealth operation to swear in the short-lived government under the chief ministership of Devendra Fadnavis, poaching of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLAs, an operation carried out to rescue them from Gurugram and later the parading of them with the Congress and Shiv Sena MLAs in a show of strength. 

Such power-packed drama had us hooked to our chairs, couches as we wanted to keep pace with the fast developing news via breathless coverage of TV correspondents. It was exhausting, brain-numbing and anger- inducing. The voters felt cheated while the politicians happily posed with strange bedfellows.

In the midst of all this, what brought a smile to our faces and at times even made us chuckle at their witticism were the political cartoons, WhatsApp forwards, meme pages, puns, sher-o-shayari (by the dramatis personae of this episode) on social media.  

Sample this...
My phone’s Battery lasts longer than
Devendra Fadnavis as CM & Ajit Pawar as Deputy CM..#MaharashtraPolitical #TWIST

Abbas Mastan going to file writ petition in the court for having more twist and turns than their movies 

Sanjay Raut: BJP was the single largest party, yet we number 2, 3 and 4 made alliance and ousted them from power. Now we’ll run a stable govt for next 5 years.

HD Kumaraswamy: Baitho beta bahut kuch seekhna hai zindagi mei
While the voters waited in anticipation to know who would form the government, cartoonists, social media influencers were having a field day. We talk to some of them to know how political situations like #MaharashtraPoliticalTwist gave them food for laughs...

‘MEMES SIMPLIFY COMPLEX SITUATIONS’
Our page put up memes on the political drama in Maharashtra as it happened – who got along with whom, who backed out and so on. The situations were so hilarious that we didn’t have to add any creativity to the memes.  

We don’t support any particular political party, but we openly appreciate those who do good work and also troll those who take it easy.

These memes, in a way, simplify the complexities of the political situation and people can relate to it. Memes add a touch of humour and this is the main reason why people share more memes than news articles on social media. 

The Devendra Fadnavis government collapsed after 80 hours, and to summarise the news, we put up a meme with a dialogue from Munna Bhai MBBS, ‘Bhai yeh to shuru hote hi khatam ho gaya hai’. It also represented the sentiments of the citizens. When we make a meme on politics, then its resharing on various platforms firstly expresses the stand of the person and also keeps others updated about the situation. One cannot watch TV all the time to keep oneself updated. Sharing of memes shows that the person is very much in touch with the current situation.”
— Yogesh Vyas,  Head of RVCJ Marathi page

‘CARTOONISTS ARE ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT’
When I was young, I was attracted to the cartoons of RK Laxman and Mario Miranda published in the newspaper. But I never understood the comment on socio-political scenario implied in those cartoons. As I grew up, I started relating with the political cartoons. Now, as a cartoonist, I follow news and political developments fascinate me. So, it is natural that I get more ideas to work on political cartoons. 

When situations like these arise, it spells a good time for cartoonists. Basically, cartoonists are anti-establishment. As a voice representing the genuinely concerned citizen, cartoonists make fun of political scenarios, take a dig at dirty methods used by the leaders and ridicule the corrupt political parties.

The recent developments in Maharashtra politics posed huge challenges for us. By the time, we finalised an idea and started to ink it, the scenario would have changed dramatically. It is as if the politicians are taking revenge on us!”
— Satish Acharya, Cartoonist

‘RAISE VOICE AGAINST WRONGDOINGS’
Two of my cartoons, ‘Kuch nahi hua’ inspired by Pulwama attack and ‘Titanic’  inspired by the breaking-up of BJP-Shiv Sena alliance got me fame, criticism and threats. The threats have inspired and interested me to raise my voice against such things.

I got offers from many politicians and companies to join them, but I declined. I know that they would stop me from working for other organisations. I do not want to stop commenting on the wrongdoings. The politicians want power and position and absolutely have zero concern about the commoners. 

Recently, 26/11 came and went without much buzz. Politicians were so interested in grabbing power, and the common man was so involved in watching the tug-of-war, that they forgot the anniversary of the infamous Mumbai attacks. 

After observing this political drama, I think the voting percentage might go even lower in the next election as people felt cheated and betrayed.”
— Sushant Deorukhkar, Cartoonist

‘SATIRE HAS TO BE AVAILABLE 24X7’
Actually, watching politics from a lens of humour and satire isn’t new. Raag Darbari, the book by Shrilal Shukla is a great example; it was an excellent satire on the class of politicians. The mediums have changed though. Now, you don’t have to wait for the next morning for the local newspaper cartoonist to take a jibe at the headlines. Everything is real-time in the age of 24x7 news, even satire has to keep up and be available 24x7. The incentive for humourists is instant validation.

Politics is the business of opportunism in the garb of ideology. Humour pokes holes in this garb, and is irreverent, hence funny. I believe that rules are the same, the medium and timing have been updated.”
— Abhishek Asthana aka @GabbarSingh, Social Media Influencer

‘CONSUMPTION OF NEWS IS THROUGH COMEDIANS... 
My take on the whole Maharashtra election fiasco is that you can’t really trust any party or politician now. I found it really funny when parties with starkly different ideologies came together to form an alliance. Everyone knows that politicians have huge egos, nobody would make room for the other. This relationship is doomed from the start. 

Every morning, when I read the political section of the paper, I get at least 5-10 minutes worth of comical material. But that’s because I am an avid follower of politics and can keep up with its fast pace. Most people lose interest after a while. In fact, their consumption of news is through comedians nowadays — I mean stand-up comedians, this is not a jab at news show anchors. Those who have half-baked knowledge about what’s going on because they refer to WhatsApp, can still get some of my jokes. But I don’t have to work too hard to make the jokes, the simple facts are funny by themselves. 

I recently saw an interview with Ajit Pawar, Uddhav Thackeray and Aditya Thackeray (who was there god knows why). When the journalist was asking questions, Ajit was as calm as a clam, but Aditya was all hot and bothered and kept saying “Aap tension mat lo, hum dekh lenge (you don’t take tension, we will see to it)”. Not only was the difference in their ideologies evident, but their tone and words made them seem to come from different worlds. It was like a modern feminist girl going into a conservative family; someone has to make the compromise here.”
— Souvik Ganguly, Pune-based comedian

‘DO NOT LOSE THE SERIOUSNESS OF SITUATION’
Balasaheb Thackeray was a cartoonist and so is Raj Thackeray. A cartoonist is similar to a comedian. The only difference is that we work through scripts. We are inspired by political situations but we have to be careful because our jokes or comments are like double-edged swords. We, therefore, have to write jokes that do not hurt anyone, specially the person we are targetting.  

The political leaders on whom we crack jokes also watch our show. When they meet us they say, ‘We did not feel bad because you write the content with lot of responsibility’. Those who write such content need to have a fair knowledge about politics. Every politician has a huge following and we have to keep in mind their reputation. After all, we are not writing to tease them. 

Today, on WhatsApp and other social media, jokes go around every minute. But we aim at creating intelligent or black humour. We see to it that the seriousness of the scenario stays while we are telling a joke or creating a funny situation. 

We also have to write content objectively and take into consideration the views of others in the team. That way, the horizon of the content broadens.”     
— Dr Nilesh Sable, writer-director, Chala Hawa Yeu Dya

‘POLITICIANS ARE DOING COMEDY AND VICE VERSA’
I think all the people today are wise enough to understand what’s going on. It has become so clear to everyone that politicians really don’t care about anyone but themselves. One moment they are fighting among themselves, the next, they are forming alliances. 

When you visit a government office to get something done, you wait for years. But 5.30 in the morning, the politicians are up to doing whatever they want. It was actually funny to see how Congress was totally wiped out during this election, but was still on their high horse. Abhi chance mil raha hai, toh le lo (If you’re getting a chance now, then grab it). I read an article about how NCP MLAs were hidden in Gurugram and NCP sent a team to rescue them through the kitchen door. It was like an exciting and thrilling action web series. 

There is so much material (for comedy set) to be found here. For the last few days, whenever I am on stage to perform, I open my set by saying that ‘I am an orphan, I don’t have a chief minister’. I was in Bhopal the other day and I said to the audience, ‘At least you have a chief minister. I don’t know if I go to the toilet and by the time I come out, who will be the chief minister in Maharashtra.’ 

I want to make clear that we as comedians will make fun of any government and are not biased against any political parties when it comes to our scripts and public opinions. We make a joke on whatever is happening in real time. I got messages from bhakts saying, ‘Now you won’t make fun of Shiv Sena because that is your party and I said, no, that’s your job, you also do some work’. 

Honestly, I will make fun of politicos, regardless of which party they come from. 

I think how Modiji passed the motion for the special power without calling for a cabinet meeting (to revoke Presidential Rule in Maharashtra) was hilarious. Apparently, this can only be done in special situations like war and emergency. Nowadays people are saying that politicians are doing comedy and comedians are doing the politics.”
— Atul Khatri, Mumbai-based comedian

‘POLITICIANS THEMSELVES ARE SO FUNNY’
I feel more than the creativity, the uncertainties in politics are fuelling the comedy. In stand-up comedy, there are two aspects — set up and joke. So our leaders are stirring up situations and we are pumping out our jokes. I also think the politicians themselves are so funny. 

In the past too, we have had alliances between political parties belonging to different ideologies. Communist leader George Fernandes was a part of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government. The only difference is that they had more dignity as compared to the leaders now. I think if politicians continue to lose their dignity, people will definitely host meme feasts for them. 

When it comes to developing content on political issues, we follow one policy and that is to be neutral. People working with us come from various backgrounds, and have different ideologies. We keep this fact in mind while creating humorous content. We focus on keeping our writing relatable. We work on writing good satires than loud or absurd things. It’s important to know what a common person thinks about a situation and create something around that. It’s also imperative to not dumb down everything the politicians say.”
— Sarang Sathaye, actor, founder BhaDiPa and actor

(Inputs by Anjali Jhangiani, Anugraha Rao, Debarati Palit Singh and Poorna Kulkarni)

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