Indian political figures don’t throw up as much fodder and inspiration for satire and humour as, say, George W. Bush did when he was in power. Here was one president who came along once in a nation’s lifetime, whose every action, every speech and every policy prompted satirists and cartoonists to make fun of him.
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We, on the other hand, are a country afflicted by loser-politician fatigue. We have ended up electing politicians with such poor credentials and such laughable qualities that it is pointless to make fun of them. How many of them do you satirize?
That’s the reason we at DaCunha Associates (the advertising agency that has been making the Amul hoardings with the pop-iconic Amul girl) no longer like to directly make fun of politicians. Most of the time, we pick on political events, situations or larger trends instead, which are more provocative and mirror thoughts that people can relate to and think about, instead of just laughing at individuals.
But some politician caricatures have been quite memorable: A 1996 hoarding, which came out when Deve Gowda became the prime minister, said: “Lambi race ka Gowda”. Another one a few years ago, about the Congress president, said: “So nia, yet so far”. Some others that also come to mind are: “JaiL-alitha!” (when then Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa was imprisoned); “Fodder of the Nation” (over the fodder scam that rocked Bihar during Lalu Prasad’s regime); “Be Indian, bye Indian” (when reforms opened the gates for Coca-Cola and Pepsi) and “Out Of Commission” (the Bofors scandal).
In 1966, a couple of years after DaCunha Associates came into being, my father Sylvester DaCunha, who owned the agency, decided to make the advertising of Amul his most important account, a kind of social commentary. There was no TV then and newspaper ads were very expensive.
So he, along with Eustace Fernandes, his designer, decided to make them something of a pop equivalent to R.K. Laxman’s cartoons to arrest attention. The very first one was about Mumbai’s horse races and it said “Thorough Bread!”
This election year, the Amul girl completes 43 years, and her humour about our country’s political idiosyncracies has changed somewhat. Every Monday, I sit with my writer Manish Jhaveri and chat about all the topics of the week that went by. Rarely do we fail to come up with an idea that doesn’t have a political message. Being in Mumbai and having Mumbai’s people and stars for inspiration is always a help. Politics, Bollywood and the stock exchange often come together in one idea.
It’s too early to predict how we’re going to take our spin on the forthcoming general election, but it will be less about individual politicians and more about the fascinating theatre of an Indian election.
As told to Sanjukta Sharma.
Rahul DaCunha is the director of DaCunha Associates. Write to email@example.com