No Laughing Matter

599 500

The Ambedkar Cartoons, 1932–1956

Unnamati Syama Sundar

with a Foreword by Suraj Yengde

  • Weight: 520 g
  • Dimensions: 8.5 × 5.5 × 1.14 in
  • Number of Pages: 408
  • Binding: Paperback
  • ISBN: 9788189059880
Category:

This history like no other asks you to consider what you are laughing at.

In 2012, the inclusion of a 1949 cartoon by Shankar showing Jawaharlal Nehru whipping a snail-borne B.R. Ambedkar in a school textbook, evoked dalit protest, and a savarna counter on the grounds of artistic freedom. Scholar and cartoonist Unnamati Syama Sundar then undertook an archival survey of cartoons on Ambedkar in the English language press. The result, a collection of over a hundred cartoons from India’s leading publications, drawn by Shankar, Enver Ahmed and R.K. Laxman, among others, lays bare the perverse and thoughtless hostility Ambedkar often contended with. The incisional commentary woven around each cartoon offers a veritable biography of a man historically wronged.

 

Unnamati Syama Sundar grew up in Vijayawada on a diet of Calvin and Hobbes, Dennis the Menace, Chacha Chaudhary and Amar Chitra Katha. He is doing his doctoral research at Jawaharlal Nehru University on the art featured in Chandamama, the popular Telugu children’s magazine founded in 1947. Syama Sundar is well-known for his Ambedkarite cartoons in the non-savarna social media world. His work is featured regularly on the website roundtableindia.co.in.

 


 

In the Media

A book that overturns the usual assumptions about political cartooning.—from an excerpt in The Hindu

A significant step in understanding the caste impulses that drive visual cultures in India.—Hindustan Times

No Laughing Matter is the best outcome of the 2012 NCERT controversy. Sundar’s Parthian shot is directed not only at the Shankars and the R.K. Laxmans and the Enver Ahmeds but also at the very psyche and soul of a profoundly unequal society which subjected one of its greatest and brightest minds to such condescending coarseness.—Mint Lounge

The book works like one big cartoon. One-sided, adversarial, unsparing. Cartoonists can’t complain. They are getting a taste of their own medicine.—The Indian Express

Syama Sundar can be scathing as he lampoons the lampoonists. He exposes their caste biases, their often misogynistic representations and their partisan, even mercenary, approach to work.—India Today

No Laughing Matter exposes the biases of the press and the political establishment. It forces readers to re-examine the past and acknowledge its indefensible echoes that continue to haunt the present.—Business Line

‘नो लाफिंग मैटर’ दरअसल उस गंभीरता की ओर इशारा करती है जिसमें आंबेडकर सवर्ण ताकतों और उसके रहनुमाओँ से लड़कर दलितों और वंचितों के लिए संघर्षरत थे। —Forward Press

Every cartoon with historical and political annotations given by Syama Sundar tries to debunk the casteism and hatred against Ambedkar that was portrayed in those cartoons.—New Indian Express

‘As we read this book, we wince rather than laugh as we see each cartoon unfolding.’—PTI Report

No Laughing Matter seamlessly captures the synergy between words and images …  carefully decoding each cartoon with historical precision and an anti-caste filter.—Firstpost

No Laughing Matter goes a long way to show that the media and cartoonists do not only make great men, but sometimes villains too. If you love Ambedkar, and if you read this book, get ready to be offended and the angry at the same time.—The Print

Four years of search and research has resulted in No Laughing Matter featuring 122 cartoons [which show how] cartoonists deliberately targeted Ambedkar even if there was nothing really to make fun of.—From an excerpt in The Print

Each cartoon is a lesson in the history of the making of the Republic of India. No Laughing Matter is steeped in satire.—Mid-Day

No Laughing Matter represents a rare voice reflecting on Ambedkar’s life, and, by extension, on the entire movement of oppression.—Scroll.in

Unnamati Syama Sundar has taken to task the doyens of Indian political cartooning.—Business Standard

No Laughing Matter is a damning exposé of the casteism of the English press during the Independence movement and early days of nation-building.—Huffington Post

Battling the question of free speech, Unnamati Syama Sundar makes a case for cartoons to not be used to punch down communities that have already been oppressed for generations.—The Hindu, Metro Plus

You. Must. Read. This. Book.—Outlook

No Laughing Matter restores these cartoons to their proper context by showing us how thin the line was between making fun of politics, and of Ambedkar’s personhood.—Mumbai Mirror

‘These cartoons are as relevant today as they were seventy years ago’Vijeta Kumar

No Laughing Matter unveils the dirty savarna gaze and gives us much to learn’—Varun Grover

‘Syama Sundar uncovers upper-caste majoritarianism disguised as artistic freedom’—Rajyashri Goody

‘A scathing and unsparing reappraisal of Indian political cartooning’—Suraj Yengde, in his Foreword