From a stint as a bank official to a prolific cartoonist with an unwavering dedication spanning 46 years, EP Unny possesses the insight that comes from keenly observing a nation up close. The veteran cartoonist, renowned for his editorial contributions, recently shared his thoughts in an interview, shedding light on his illustrious career and the evolving landscape of political cartooning.
In a cozy room at a traditional club in Thiruvananthapuram, where Unny spent Christmas, visitors tip-toed around his workspace. Engrossed in his daily cartoon—a whimsical portrayal of Santa and a child peering at Bethlehem—Unny gracefully managed the interruptions. His routine, a product of 46 years of relentless cartooning, is an integral part of his identity.
Refusing to be hindered by the notion of age, Unny humorously dismisses the figure 46 as making him sound too old. His cartooning journey, primarily in the realm of political satire, has been enriched by experiences with renowned personalities like G Kasturi of The Hindu during the initial 12 years of his career.
Unny’s foray into political cartooning coincided with a transformative period in Indian politics. The shift towards economic-centric news during Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s era aligned perfectly with Unny’s move to the Economic Times in the mid-1990s. Throughout his career, he adhered to a self-imposed rule—avoiding religious themes due to a perceived lack of knowledge in that domain.
Reflecting on the changing landscape of political cartooning, Unny notes that while the fundamental language remains consistent, technology has introduced notable shifts. The immediacy enabled by technology contrasts with the slower pace of traditional cartooning when major events could conclude cartooning for the day.
Unny’s artistic journey began at The Hindu, where he evolved from a part-time cartoonist to a full-time contributor. His mentor, Kasturi, emphasized avoiding reliance on editorial text and encouraged him to generate original ideas. The transition to Delhi in 1989 marked a significant phase for Unny, placing him amidst the political hub during a period of leadership changes.
Despite navigating controversies and challenges, Unny maintains a clear stance on press freedom and cartoonists’ rights. Post-2014, he identifies fake news as a major impediment and laments the one-sided reporting by television channels. While cartoonists may no longer expect understanding from the political class, Unny remains optimistic about democratic support from the courts.
Beyond his impactful cartoons, Unny has ventured into writing, producing books accompanied by his sketches. His warm account of Fort Kochi in “Santa and Scribes: The Making of Fort Kochi” and the comprehensive portrayal of Kerala in “Spices and Souls” showcase his versatility.
EP Unny’s remarkable journey continues, marked by laughter, keen observations, and an unwavering commitment to capturing the nation’s essence through his cartoons.