Iconic political cartoonist Ajit Ninan bids final farewell at 68

Hundreds of tweets poured in as the art world paid tribute to the legendary Indian cartoonist, remembered for his incisive wit

Cartoonist Ajit Ninan passed away at home in Mysore (@theRohitBansal/ Twitter)
Cartoonist Ajit Ninan passed away at home in Mysore (@theRohitBansal/ Twitter)

NH Digital

From drawing the 'Centrestage' series of cartoons in India Today to creating 'Ninan's World' in the Times of India, a majority of the Indian news-reading audience remembers Ajit Ninan's iconic cartoons, which managed to encapsulate complex current affairs in just a tiny few square centimetres.

Ninan would take conflicts and crises, spin them around a 360 degrees and playfully get his audience to ponder while they smirked, even giggled.

He had a knack — as a younger political cartoonist, Satish Acharya, notes — for taking a celebrity visage and simplify its lines while retaining all of the character that made it instantly recognisable and 'speaking'.

The Indian political cartoonist's most famous character original character was Detective Moochhwala — whose humour transcended boundaries and was beloved by all. Many would subscribe to Target magazine for his panels alone.

The renowned cartoonist passed away at his residence in Mysuru on 8 September. "He passed away early this morning in his apartment. I think it's a cardiac arrest," disclosed a family member to the Hindu.

Paying tribute to their iconic peer, hundreds of artists and members of his vast audience went on X (formerly Twitter) to remember Ninan and pay tribute to his art, which highlighted the complex issues of Indian sociopolitics with ease.

The Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Cartoonists, which aims to promote and preserve cartooning and cartoonists in India, added its condolences too.

Many also shared their fun experiences while working with the legendary cartoonist: ''Ajit Ninan used to sketch joyously in weekly edit meets at India Today," tweeted Namrata Joshi, a film critic. "I was also put to paper once. Pulled it out just now. Sad to see am fading. Also turned the paper around to see random doodles from him I hadn’t noticed earlier in the excitement of having been sketched.''

Another fellow journalist tweeted, "Dear Ajit, Hope you are laughing and joking all the way up there. And making cartoons of crazy people. In a heartless newspaper office, the star cartoonist radiated light with his laughter each morning.''

Rajesh Kalra expressed how Ajit Ninan would ''often oblige (him) with a sketch to depict something (he had) written''.

Rajit Pandit credited the late cartoonist for making the world a ''gentler place with (his) brilliant... illustrations''.

In a tribute in The South First, fellow political cartoonist and follower Satish Acharya remembers Ninan from his early India Today days and across to Target, Outlook and others.

Sharing two anecdotes — one in which Ninan publicly criticised Acharya's colouring style and a later one where he offered financial support, a 'priceless gesture', when Acharya was under pressure to withdraw (or 'adapt') a panel on China's aggression in South Asia — the younger, self-taught artist goes on to say:

We loosely use the word 'legend', but I strongly believe Ajit Ninan was truly a legend in Indian cartooning. He lives on, not only through his works, but also through the works of the many cartoonists he has inspired.
Satish Acharya, political cartoonist

A few other tributes we collected from Twitter, now X — yes, we expect Ninan would have laughed with us about that...

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