From being a cartoonist to writing dialogue for movies and hosting TV shows, Madan’s journey has been phenomenal. Hema Iyer Ramani traces it.

Even as his book on the Mughals gets its 25th edition, cartoonist Madhan gets into rewind mode.
‘Vandhargal, Vendraargal’ (loosely translated as They came, they conquered), a book showcasing the history of the Mughals in India, was first published as a serial in the Tamil magazine, Junior Vikatan, by cartoonist Madhan. Soon, it was brought out as a book in 1993, and has recently completed its 25th print edition, running to 2,50,000 copies, a rare achievement for a publication in the vernacular!

The title holds true when it comes to Madhan’s own career graph as well. He came in as a cartoonist and conquered the hearts of his readers. A popular figure among Tamils the world over, Madhan has proved to both readers and viewers alike that art and literature can flow freely across boundaries.
‘Cartoonists are born, they cannot be made.’ That’s a maxim Madhan believes in. “It would be easy for me to teach a person how to draw if he has an inherent sense of the satire in him,” says Madhan. “But not if it were the other way round!” A cartoon requires the perfect blend of wit, quick thinking, an understanding of the political scenario, a command over the language, a sense of objectivity, and above all, the ability of not being overawed by anyone. In the absence of any one of these ingredients, it could taste like beer gone flat. Humour cannot be forced nor can intelligence be thrust down; it is a known fact that the ones who come out with the best illustrations need not necessarily be good cartoonists.

Madhan owes his success to his parents - the humour bone from his maternal side and his ability to draw from his paternal side. He had a quiet childhood, which blossomed into a secure adulthood. However, it was only when he started out at Ananda Vikatan that he discovered the world outside and within him. Though he started out as a cartoonist and was expected to be ready with the most effective punch lines every week, he was soon prodded into contributing original jokes for the magazine. Sceptical at first, he began contributing jokes along with his cartoons. Warmed by his growing popularity, Madhan also came to be remembered by his readers for creating memorable and timeless characters such as ‘Rettaivaal Rangudu’ and ‘Munjagridhai Muthanna.’

Soon, he rose to the enviable position as Joint Editor of Ananda Vikatan, and was instrumental in launching Junior Vikatan, reaching out to young writers and reporters across Tamil Nadu, and Tamil speaking writers across the country and outside. Under his leadership, the readership of Vikatan rose manifold. In his editorial role, he covered all possible topics for his vernacular audience - History, Art, Cinema, short stories, jokes, cartoons and film reviews. His ‘Kelvi Badhil’ soon became such a hit that years later, when he entered the small screen, the channels wanted a visual version of the same.

One thing led to another, and soon Madhan, the cartoonist, was no longer confined to his desk. He spread his wings and moved to other arenas such as journalism and television.
He moved from cartoons to journalism, from editing to critiquing, from being a TV host to being a writer, who wrote dialogue for movies such as ‘Anbe Sivam’ and ‘Kancheevaram.’

Humour is all about timing, whether in cartoons or films, and Madhan knows that only too well. For in every avatar, he surges ahead with complete understanding of the time and context, keeping his audience in splits withing seconds!

Today, Madan interviews film personalities and presents film reviews for the channel, Pudhu Yugam.
And now, he is contributing to the weekly Jannal, symbolic perhaps of the fact that it is his turn now to help a new magazine, remembering how an established magazine had helped a young man discover himself.

I recall what the late Sujatha had written in the preface of ‘Vandhargal, Vendrargal’ “Had History books been written in this interesting manner, I would have scored a hundred!”
That sums up Madhan’s key to success.