In the fantasy land, sword-wielding King Vikram, and Vetal were the favourite characters among Indian children of several generations of the earlier years. Many readers may not know that K.C. Sivasankaran (popularly known as Sankar) was the artist behind the sketches of King Vikram and Vetal, published in the magazine Chandamama, in 13 Indian languages with a circulation of more than 9 lakhs (900,000).
Sankar (92) was honoured with the 'Life Time Achievement Award' by Cartoon Watch at the recent Cartoon Festival 2015 in Chennai. The editorial team of PreSense had a freewheeling chat with the legendary artist who indulged in recollecting his memories.
Sankar recalled that when he was a student in the school, his drawing master recognised his talent in drawing and advised him to join the 'College of Fine Arts" at Chennai instead of joining a degree course, as it was difficult for graduates to get employment during that time. Braving the rigorous process of admission, Sankar joined the 5-year course at the Fine Arts College. He was one of the outstanding students in drawing. The College selected him as one of the five students to meet Mahatma Gandhi when he visited Chennai in 1946 and to draw posters on the theme 'Harijan Upliftment'. He proudly recalled how Mahatma had appreciated his posters.
Career as Artist
In 1946, he joined 'Kalaimagal', a Tamil magazine, as an artist. Later in 1952, he moved to Chandamama Publications to earn an additional salary of Rs.50/-, which was a substantial amount during those days. He continued in the same organisation for 60 years till 2012. At 92 today, he continues to contribute by drawing cartoons from home, for other magazines.
During the Cartoon Festival, the media persons had requested him to draw a picture. He immediately picked up a pen and began drawing a picture on a piece of paper, with a steady hand. (photo in Cover Story 1)
He said that he got his inspiration from Ravi Varma paintings. Sankar has a passion to draw characters from Purana and Itihasa. It is said that N T Ramarao, former Superstar of the Telugu Cinema used to refer to his drawings for the designs of his character costumes. Sankar said a good artist needed to understand about the human anatomy to help in his drawing.
Sankar works like a 'Karma Yogi'. He does not like to be disturbed when he is at his drawing. Since he generally kept to himself during his career, he was not that well-known to the outside world, except to his professional friends. "I remained like a frog in a well", he said.
"I was therefore surprised when I got a call from Triambak Sharma of Cartoon Watch from Raipur, informing that I was being honoured with a Life Time Achievement Award. I was further pleasantly surprised when Triambak told me that he was a fan of my pictures of Vikram and Vetal during his younger days", said Sankar, with tears down his cheeks.
He felt sad that in India, artists were not properly recognised and encouraged professionally and monetarily. He started his career as an artist with a salary of Rs.150/- in 1946 and retired in 2013 when his salary was Rs.20,000/- per month. Sadly, he is yet to get his retirement benefits, even though he was also responsible for the huge circulation of the magazine during his tenure with the publication.
Notwithstanding this, he engages himself full-time by drawing for spiritual magazines. "I want to dedicate myself to my drawings, whether I am recognised or not. I don't do anything. It is divine. A super Sakthi is driving me," Sankar said with eyes beaming with humility and confidence. He is well looked after by his children.
He wants youngsters to work with passion. "You should be personally satisfied with your work first; then others should be satisfied" he added.
Before taking leave of him, our team briefed him about the cartoon character 'Prince', which was launched by Dr Abdul Kalam himself and which has run for 85 months in the ezine, PreSense. We requested him to draw our 'Prince' with 'King Vikram'. "I can't draw cartoons like your Triambak. However, I will make an attempt", he said modestly. Within three minutes, he drew a sketch on a white sheet of paper and showed us. Within two hours, he coloured the picture and mailed it to us. PreSense is greatly honoured to publish this picture drawn by the legendary artist, Sankar.
This Karma Yogi, who has made a mark in the art world deserves an honour as great as 'Padma Sri' of the Government of India.
By Sukruti Narayanan, Editorial Team, PreSense