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A Political Cartoon provides insight into power relations, prominent social issues, and events by mocking the failings or excuses of the powerful, and thus can hold the leaders accountable. A political cartoon, therefore, holds an important section in Newspapers.
The two newspapers selected for the study i.e. Times of India and The Hindu, are prominent English newspapers of the country which have a dedicated section for political cartoons. There are various differences that can be drawn out after analyzing and examining the political cartoons of these two newspapers.
The Times of India uses political cartoons made by Sandeep Adhwaryu under the tagline “Line of No Control”. The disclaimer says “This story is a work of fiction which is intended to bring a smile on your face. It bears no connection to events and characters in real life. The subject matter is intended purely as satire”. This means that the work is completely a satire of the situation and is intended for humour.
The Hindu, on the other hand uses cartoons made by various cartoonists like Surendra, Keshav Venkataraghavana and Vasini Varadan.
Some comparisons made between the two:
a. The Political Cartoon that comes in TOI has no fixed place in the newspaper. It can be anywhere, on the inner pages or on the front half jacket. It generally accompanies the news article to which it is related. The Hindu on the other hand has a section for political cartoons on the OPED page.
b. The Times of India has cartoons on almost 5 days of a week on average. There is no fixed day when the cartoon won’t appear. Whereas The Hindu has fixed 2 days in the week, i.e. Saturday and Sunday, when cartoons are not present.
On the basis of the observations, the following findings in the two newspapers have been seen:
In the cartoons analyzed above, it was observed that The Times of India covers a wide range of issues like Political, Economic, Social, Environmental, and Diplomacy, through their cartoons. Issues have also been taken up from social media like Zomato’s debate over food and religion.
Whereas on the other hand, The Hindu has cartoons mostly based on Politics and Economics. Few are also based on Diplomatic issues. But the number of political issues taken up is high in number.
Key stakeholders in any cartoon are those who are shown to be the center of the topic. It can also be said, that key stakeholders refer to the ones who have been shown to be affected the most. In both the newspapers, a lot of key stakeholders are present. These include the common man, the government, and politicians.
In The Hindu, most of the time, the common man has been shown as the key stakeholder in their cartoons. This means that the cartoons in The Hindu basically try to show the impact of political and economic decisions of the government, on the masses of the country. In Times of India, other key stakeholders are also taken like government, politicians etc.
Symbolism means the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities. Simple images can be used to depict major ideas or concepts. As we know, cartoons are known for expressing ideas and knowledge that can be explained in not less than a thousand-piece article. Therefore, to fulfill that purpose, symbols are used so that a lot can be conveyed through the cartoons.
Both Times of India and The Hindu make use of symbolism in its cartoons to convey the message. In every cartoon observed, symbols have been used which give clues and help in deciphering deeper meanings into the cartoon. In The Times of India, some repetitive symbols have been used. These include a man name “Vishwas” or “Vikas”, a Police official depicted as a Parrot, the Use of a Bull to represent the economy, etc.
These repetitive symbols give a unique identity to the cartoons of Times of India. Moreover, these help people in identifying and understanding the cartoons easily and effectively. In The Hindu, no such trend is followed. In almost every cartoon, the symbol used is different and is labeled. Labelling helps people in deciphering the meanings or messages easily. Therefore, no repetitive symbol can be seen in The Hindu.
A newspaper in itself has a motive of informing the people and making them aware. A cartoon thus can be a useful tool in this motive of the newspaper.
In the observations, it was found that the motive behind most of the cartoons in The Times of India is to create humor. The Times of India generally makes use of satire and sarcasm to evoke humor out of the situation or the issue involved.
This has also been given in the disclaimer of Line of No Control by The Times of India which goes as follows: “This story is a work of fiction which is intended to bring a smile on your face. It bears no connection to events and characters in real life. The subject matter is intended purely as satire”. Therefore, satire is the major element use in Times of India, to give a humorous appeal to its cartoons
Whereas in The Hindu, most of the cartoons appear to be critical in their motive. Through comparison, satire, comment or sarcasm, they try to be critical of the situation and thus evoke a thought process in the minds of the reader.
In the observations, it was seen that both the newspapers cover national as well as international issues through their cartoons. But a larger share of them is always devoted to national issues, news or topics. The main reason behind this is the readership of the newspaper.
Both The Times of India and The Hindu are major newspapers at the National Level which cater to the larger audience of India. Therefore, to cater to the Indian audience, they generally cover national issues. A cartoon can be considered as the mirror of the event presented to create awareness or just make people laugh. But as a tool of journalists, a cartoon can be very useful in questioning and criticizing those in power. Cartoons and caricatures are worth a million words.
This research tried to throw some light on how two national dailies of the country, the Times of India and The Hindu are different from one another in terms of the cartoons they publish and their formats. It was observed that overall, cartoons in both newspapers had one or the same elements as would be present in any other cartoon. But overall there are differences between the two on the basis of issues taken up, symbolism, and motive/appeal.
The Time of India covers a wide range of issues through its cartoons like politics, economics, development, environment, social, and diplomatic. Whereas The Hindu, mainly takes up current issues of politics and economics. Further, when we talk about the symbolism, then it can be seen that The Times of India, makes use of repetitive symbols in its cartoons which are unique to their newspaper, whereas, in The Hindu, no such phenomena can be found. A major difference that has been observed between the two newspapers is that of appeal. The Times of India makes use of satire to evoke humor in its cartoons. Most of the cartoons are thus humorous in their appeal. Whereas, in The Hindu, cartoons have shown to have a critical approach. Through comment, satire, and comparison, its cartoons try to be critical of the situation and thus evoke a questioning attitude in the minds of the reader. Political cartoons are a unique form of visual communication. With words compressed to symbols and metaphors, a political cartoon can go on explaining any particular issue very easily. The trend of cartoon making for satire and their use in newspapers is very old. Therefore, political cartoons have been a subject of study in various previous works. Some have focussed upon their nature and functions, some have studied their semantic importance, and some have studied their role whereas others have studied their importance and impact on the audiences.
For example, in the research paper, “Political Cartoons as a Vehicle of Setting Social Agenda- The Newspaper Example”, the researcher has tried to study the role played by political cartoons in setting social agenda in the public domain. As we know, newspapers help in setting the agenda for the people through various ways of priming and framing, the given paper on the other hand, focuses upon their use of Political Cartoons in highlighting topics and themes and the representation of political figures in them. The research is based upon the study of Nigerian newspapers that specifically publish political cartoons. With the use of semiotic analysis, the research tries to throw some light as to how the aim of agenda-setting theory is fulfilled through cartoons and their impact on the audience.
The paper thus concludes that “the cartoons are a part of that communication through which social agendas are set. It is through Political Cartoons through which media tries to build up public attention, reorient people and further initiate social and political reforms”. Similarly, in the article, “Cartoons as a medium of Political Communication”, Dirk Kotze talks about how political cartoons are used for political communication. The study is based in South Africa and tries to focus upon the role of cartoons in the political socialization process. The article then describes the 3 major and general functions of political cartoons. These are:
a) Cartoons freeze or condense a whole sphere of reference into one depiction.
b) Their second function is to simplify. That is to reduce the complex reality to a simplistic understanding.
c) And thirdly, their function is to transmit signals, carry out ideas and create symbols that will reinforce the existing perceptional frame of the readers.
Other than these, the specific functions of Political Cartoons is to explain reality, indict reality, and further, catalysing change. Overall the article stresses upon the role and functions of Political Cartoons in a democratic society.
In another group of studies involving Political Cartoons, their semiotic analysis and impact have been analyzed.
For example, in the research paper, “Semiotic Analysis on Message Delivering in Sri Lankan Political Cartoons”, the researcher has studied the semiotics and metaphors used in Political Cartoons in the Sri Lankan context. With the use of qualitative, quantitative, and semi-ethnographic strategies, the whole study has been conducted. The researcher found out that the cartoonists use objects as visual metaphors to deliver the message easily. Further, Political Cartoons use very simple visual language so that the people can decode messages easily and effectively. The paper concludes that political cartoons in Sri Lankan media generally make use of those signs and symbols which are well-known in the Sri Lankan culture. Moreover, the researcher found out that contemporary political cartoons have a visual approach rather than having dialogues because the audience at present lacks reading and seeks more visual aids. Therefore, major cartoonists use symbols and signs that are well-known and easily understandable.
Similarly, with a comparison of Indian and US newspapers, the research paper, “Textuality and Semiotic Semanticity Of Cartoons; A Comparative Study Of Select 20th And 21st Century Print Media Cartoons And Caricatures Of India And USA”, tries to find out the differences between the 2 and analyze the cartoons as a text. Further according to the discourse analysis, the semantic aspects of Political Cartoons have been studied. From historical developments in cartooning to their semiotic substance, the research covers all and thus compares them on the basis of symbolism, humor, styles of cartooning, etc. the researcher herein concludes that the impact of socio-economic, political, and cultural differences in both the countries has influenced their styles of cartoons and caricatures. For example, Kevin Kallaughter in a cartoon drew the flag of America as the boxes of Uncle Sam but if any Indian cartoonist drew the flag or parliament house in a different or absurd manner, then strict action might be taken against this.
Therefore, the comparison between the cartoons eventually results out of the difference in their level of freedom of expression, speech, and syndication in both countries.
In another set of literature, studies have been done to focus upon the history and development of cartooning in India and further the importance of Political Cartoons in newspapers.
For example in the research paper, “Art of Cartooning in Indian Journalism an analytical study”, Mujeeb Hussain has tried to study the history of cartooning, caricatures, and their use in Indian Journalism. Herein, cartoons as a political instrument and as an art have been studied and for that, the works of well-known cartoonists have been used as reference. These include R.K.Laxman, Shankar Pillai, NK Ranganathan, Maya Kamath, Chittoprasad, etc.
Similarly in the research paper, “Importance of Political Cartoons to Newspapers”, the researcher has tried to concentrate on how political cartoons are one of the most important parts of any newspaper. Further, it stresses understanding the effectiveness of political cartoons over editorials.
With a mix of qualitative and quantitative study, the research throws light on the works of R.K. Laxman and tries to understand how the common man created by him has become a symbol for aam admi. The researcher concludes that most people find it easier of connecting with cartoons as compared to editorials. Further, the researcher believes that the impact of cartoons is widespread and through satire, Political Cartoons help us sustain our attention on any particular political issue.
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