Tanmoy – The Sketchbook Wanderer

Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy, or just Tanmoy in short. Readers who are die hard Unmad fans or even the ones who enjoy the occasional chuckle on social media sites are bound to have stumbled upon one of his works in recent times. We got the opportunity to catch up with him for his surprising insights and his own origin story. Working as an editorial cartoonist in Dhaka Tribune by day and as a graphic novelist by night, in many ways he brings in fond memories of a certain Clarke Kent. A Bangladeshi one – who uses the language of art and humor to highlight recent political events and the society.

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Being the youngest of 3 brothers, Tanmoy never had any shortage of inspiration. He was a student of CSE before he realized that his hobby of drawing cartoons was not only a just another one of those floating interests, but a lifestyle. Under the supervision of the legendary Ahsan Habib, co-founder of Unmad, Tanmoy started his journey in 2006, and since then he has not looked back.

Tanmoy was very enthusiastic to share his insights on the current setting of art in Bangladesh. He is an advocate of social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. “Youngsters these days do not need to read newspapers since the news channels and papers maintain their own websites,” Tanmoy said. He also added, “Newspapers are online now 24/7, so a person does not even have to wait for the next morning to catch the latest news.” He shared with us the incident of the smoking minister Syed Mohsin Ali, who smoked publicly in an event organized for school children – “After the incident, I made a cartoon for Dhaka Tribune showing the Minister, with his assistant in the background, sniggering. It was late, so I went home and slept the night off. The next day, my phone went crazy. Apparently, as I was sleeping, protestors had already printed out the caricature of the minister and made it a part of their campaign. So I was a part of all the protests, without physically being there.”

When asked about the source of his inspiration and creativity, Tanmoy replies, “My work starts when I wake up. I scan through the newspaper while I have tea, and even as I travel, I notice people. So many people, so many different characters. However, I would like to thank our politicians. They generate the best ideas. They have been very generous to me,” he mentioned, with a grin.

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Life is not easy, especially when someone is a political cartoonist. When asked about his own experience, he said “In the last 10yrs of my career, I only got threatened 3 times!” Surprisingly low for someone who showcases sensitive issues. Tanmoy loves when people react to his work. “If my work upsets, or angers anyone, it means they got the message that I was trying to relay through my art. It means, my hard work has paid off.” However, he believes there is a line artists should be aware of and not cross in the name of free speech. “We live in a diverse society with people of different religion, culture and sentiment. An artist should be aware and respect all these aspects before publishing something,” he added.

Tanmoy has been working on Mujib, the first graphic novel in Bangladesh. It is named Mujib and not Bangabandhu or Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, because the novel uncovers the childhood of the Father of the Nation and what led him to become the great person we know of.

“CRI put a lot of faith in me with this project. I wanted to do a graphic novel because even in this age, comic art is looked at as a form of satire and only as a source of jokes. I want to demonstrate how graphic novels can be full of historical facts and educational. Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln and many others have their own graphic novels. Why not Sheikh Mujibur Rahman?”

Tanmoy is a busy man with a packed schedule. Since we got a hold of him for some time, it is important to not waste this valuable opportunity and ask a question that plagues artists all around the country.

In your opinion, what are the Do’s and don’ts of being a cartoonist in Dhaka?

Do’s

  1. Keep an open mind. Inspiration can be found in even the most trivial things.
  2. Know your comfort zone. Do what you are good at, and not what everyone else expects you to do. It took me 4yrs, studying as a Computer Engineer, to realize that programming and number crunching is not my game. So I ditched my keyboard, and picked up my pencil instead.
  3. Social media is the perfect platform to showcase your work. Upload it, share it, and let the world know you are working on something. Be open to criticism – give yourself the opportunity to develop into a better version of yourself.

Don’ts

  1. Do not be constricted to one single mode or tool. I started working on pen and paper for Unmad and now I use digital tools such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop in my work. Learn to adapt and evolve.
  2. Try out new things. Talk to people who are not the same age as you are. The moment you stop exploring, you stop growing.  

 

For more of Tanmoy’s works, visit https://www.facebook.com/tanmoycartoons