Gets a New Lease on Life
The cartoon character created 25
years ago celebrates its birthday with an exhibition
is a cartoon character and more. Rafiqun Nabi, aka R Nabi envisaged
this stump of a street child who was pitted against a world
that found it convenient to bother less about his kind and even
leave him out of the scene. Tokai is the representative of the
lives on the fringe that go on without the privileged ever being
privy to it. R Nabi, who came right out of the camp of artists
that Zainul Abedin moulded with his own hands, created Tokai
25 years ago and by doing so he pushed an underrated reality
into the mainstream.
Tokai simply shot to fame overnight. The character's
huge popularity with the newspaper reading public made its creator
a household name. Today, to mark the silver jubilee of this
character that gave us the interesting euphemism for street
children, its creator with the help of Gallery Chitrak makes
an attempt to showcase a whole array of works that tries to
do justice to this popular figure.
The cartoons that once adorned the pages of
the now defunct weekly 'Bitchitra', find their place on the
gallery wall. There is also a new twist to it, -- the artist
tries his hands on a new genre where his cartoon character meets
the regular settings of watercolour paintings R Nabi also is
The boy, Tokai is set against a series of swiftly
painted backdrops. In many of these watercolour paintings the
dexterity to handle the media, and the play of light, transform
many a bland setting into interesting pictorial compositions.
For the Tokai buffs, the show titled "A day in the life
of Tokai" certainly takes things to a newer height. The
"pundit" from the gutter with his witty answers often
questioned accepted reality.
Tokai burst into the scene in 1977. It first
appeared in an issue of May of that year, remembers R Nabi.
He also shed some light on its ancestry, he says, "it was
fashioned after a boy named Mokka of Narinda, Dhaka." This
is where R Nabi himself spent his childhood. He remembers how
a chubby little boy, who was known for his intelligent quips,
earned a nickname Motka, "but he himself used to pronounce
it Mokka, as he was just three or three and a half at that time,"
explains R Nabi.
Fashioned after this real life character, Tokai
was launched in the anniversary issue of Bichitra that came
out in May 1977.
the first cartoon, Tokai was shown sitting behind a makeshift
secretariat table, from where he announced: "let's play
secretaries". As a character that took off with the intention
to poke fun at the socio-economic realities, it went through
a lot of phases. After 25 years its impact may seem to have
waned a little. But how this exhibition dedicated to Tokai made
clumps of people gallery bound, is a proof that it had the capacity
to sway a majority of newspaper reading public in its hey-day,
which was in the late seventies and throughout the eighties.
R Nabi created a lot of other characters, but
the one that is unequal in its popularity and that became the
most loved and enduring name in the cartoondom, is Tokai. Tokai
has braved two decades and a half, and now at last he has even
found himself in pictures suitable for collecting.
Chitrak brought out a finely printed book on the occasion. The
hardbound book contains reproductions of all the paintings and
a few cartoons. The only thing that this huge show does not
include is the first few sketches of the Tokai character that
are no longer in possession of the artist. The weekly Bichitra
once printed a series of drawings showing the mutation from
a scratch to the final drawing. Had these been preserved and
exhibited, the show would have come to a full circle.