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Interview Shishir Bhattacharjee, A legendary cartoonist beyond comprehension

Shishir Bhattacharjee, A legendary cartoonist beyond comprehension

 

Shishir Bhattacharjee

Left : Shishir Bhattacharjee, Right: His sketch taken during the interview

Maruf, 25 January 2015, Nirapad News:  A legendary cartoonist beyond imagination, a person for the society, from the society and of the society, whose very simple and extraordinary pencil stroke strikes at the conscience of the people not known by his face but recognized all over by the cartoons that draws attention and create hullabaloos in the face of the general public is nobody else but Shishir Bhattacharjee. As a silent observer of the society he exposes his thoughts with simple strokes that interact with the society not through words but through sketches. The name that is recalled whenever any political cartoon manifests in our eyes is Shishir Bhattacharjee.

This legendary figure was born in a tiny town Thakurgaon, in the northwest part of Bangladesh in 1960. He is the third son of nine siblings of Late Sushil Kumar Bhattarjee and Indu Rekha Bhattacharjee. Except his elder brother who is settled in Delhi, India all of them are associated with various activities in Bangladesh. His mother still resides in Thakurgaon but till now she is the most influential person behind today’s Shishir Bhattacharjee.

Shishir was a very brilliant student though not very studious. He completed his primary education from Thakurgaon Primary Training Institute School and then he got admitted into Thakurgaon Govt. Boys High School. He passed his SSC securing first division in Humanities. From his very childhood he was passionate about arts and his school teachers always encouraged his simple pieces of amateur art. So he wanted to move to Dhaka to continue his further studies in Dhaka Art College but had to pursue his education in Thakurgaon College till his HSC. His indomitable passion for Art led him to move to Dhaka after HSC which led to the fulfillment of his dream. He completed his honors in 1983 from Dhaka Art College as first class first and got a scholarship to the Mahraja Sayajirao University in Gujrat, India for Masters in Fine Arts.

Although he was not very fond of literature, sometimes he studied novels of South Asian writers when he was in eighth grade and nine apart from academic studies. After passing SSC and before getting admitted in college, he studied some books on arts, sociology and philosophy. During his studentship in Art College he was willingly associated and influenced by few left wing organizations that followed secularism and he still constitutes this ideology within him.

He leads a very simple and decent life and avoids the flamboyance of life. As a result he has been a tenant all throughout his life. He leads his life as a silent thinker within the society but doesn’t like isolation. He was very happy in his conjugal life but unfortunately his beloved passed away leaving him desolate in this beautiful world. He did not stop living but dived in his work. “A rolling stone gathers no moss”- is his favorite quotation which he heard from his school teacher always drove him to live within Art. Though he has sent his only child to Shilong for education, he is not deprived of the love of his daughter and the love the children who he teaches at the Charukala institute at the University of Dhaka.

He doesn’t maintain simplicity only in his daily conversation but is as simple in every aspect of life starting from food to fashion. He is never seen in suit or boot or any formal dress because he is unable to let this habit grow inside him. He loves to be in casual all the time whether it is at his home or outside. His favorite wear is T-shirt, jeans or gabardine pants and sandal. He prefers comfort over fashion. Even his food habit is very simple. Most of the time he himself makes his own breakfast and prepares all the snacks and tea when needed.

During his happiest conjugal life he used to wake up very early in the morning but now since most of the things have changed he wakes up a bit late but not later than nine o’ clock. He passes most of his time at the university if he remains free from other work. He prepares his cartoons for daily news paper Prothom Alo  and other artworks at home because he has created an environment for proper dispersion which is reflected in his work. During his leisure he likes to make various pickles since he is fond of it. In his leisure, he listens to various types of music like classical songs and instrumentals. His favorite foreign band is Air Supply.

Shishir Bhattacharjee presented his first solo exhibition in 1994 in Chittagong Bangladesh, and his second solo in 2000 in Dhaka Bangladesh. He took part in a group exhibition under the Art South Asia program in Manchaster, UK in 2002. He participated in a group exhibition in Pakistan. A month-long exhibition of Shishir Bhattacharjee took place in September 2007 in Japan. He was the only Bangladeshi artist in the 2007 show “System Error: War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” at Palazzo Papesse in Siena, co-created by Bangladeshi artist & writer Naeem Mohaiemen. In March 2008, he had a group Exhibition in New York. In 2008, he had his first Bangladesh solo exhibition in seven years, at Gallery Kaya, one of the newer galleries. This show saw Shishir’s popular cartoon style now blended with the earlier surrealist style of “Come See the Game” era.

Shishir Bhattachajee is very concerned about the youth of Bangladesh. He wants more participation from the new generation in building this nation. He feels an agony towards the lack of cultural belongings in the youth. He also does not like the concept of celebrating as “one day’s Bengali” and he always looks for sustainable measures. Though Shishir is one of the most influential cartoonists of his generation he is best known to a mass audience as a political cartoonist. He led the influential genre-breaking group of alternative artists “Shomoy” that appeared in the 1980s, and were considered the “third wave” of Bangladesh artists. He was a vociferous and early critic of the 1980s military junta, which frequently placed him at odds with the authorities. His scathing critique of the Jamaat e Islami and 1971 war criminals made him a hated figure for the right-wing forces. Shishir is a major influence on politically motivated Bangladeshi artists.

Shishir Bhattacharjee who spent his whole for art and not for wealth, only wants the youth of the nation to rise and demonstrate significant contribution to the community and country. He dreams of a structural change in our educational system which would provide students with not only academic education but the knowledge of the entire world. He believes that effective education which can change our society is something more than our so called academic education. He wishes for generations with moral and ethical values who will bring about desirable changes. In a word Shishir Bhattacharjee is a great cartoonist who is living a very simple life style that is beyond our comprehension and a person who possesses great ideology with an all-out optimism for Bangladesh as a country and also the Bangladeshi people. May he live long and continue to enthrall us with his creative cartoons conveying social messages and eye openers for a positive change in our country.

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