Who was ‘Kutty’: Navigating through satirical cartoons

‘Seeing the cartoon is like meeting an old friend’, Kutty often used to say.Telling the story of cartooning through individual lives is like traversing the space between ethnography and biography. This allows us to move along a trajectory of lives that has bisected many histories,as said by Michael Herzfeld, the anthropologist.

Kutty was born at Ottapalam, Kerala in 1921 to Kayarat Narayana Menon and Kottuthodi Lakshmi Amma. Kutty was educated at Ottapalam and Malabar Christian College, Kozhikode. Kutty’s talent was discovered by the famous Malayalam satirist, Professor M. R. Nair (better known by his pen name “Sanjayan”). His first cartoon appeared in the Malayalam humor magazine Viswaroopam (edited by Sanjayan) in 1940.

He later worked in Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai with major newspapers and publications. In 1951 he joined the Ananda Bazar Group in Kolkata and started the most prolific and successful period of his artistic life. Professionally and otherwise, famously known as Kutty, his cartoons appeared in many different language publications across the nation. 

His used to caption his cartoons in English, which were translated into Bengali.  In his autobiography first published in 2009, this outstanding cartoonist offers a view of life in India across half a century from his very own and unusual vantage point.

Kutty didn’t know the Bengali language, but he spent the most productive part of his career with Bengali publications. This was due to his direct and simple visual expression with which he cut across language barriers.

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