Acharya, a native of Kumble village of Kerala, now works in Mangaluru. A firm believer of Lord Hanuman, Acharya is delighted to be praised for his art.
It was an ordinary day for this animation and art professional. Sitting in his office in Karnataka’s Mangaluru office, little would Karan Acharya have imagined that his popularity had caught the eye of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Not that he wasn’t popular already. His vector Hanuman art — that has more popularly come to be known as the ‘Angry Hanuman’ — has already swept the nation. Even in the national capital, it is practically impossible to be out on the roads and not catch a glimpse of this art on the rear windshield of the car. But May 5 eventually turned out to be a different day altogether.
His art work had earned the praise of Modi during an election rally in Karnataka, where the BJP and Congress are engrossed in a bitter war for power. “I want to applaud artist Karan Acharya whose Hanuman portrait has captured the imagination of people across India. This is a laudable achievement and is the power of his achievement, talent and imagination. This is the pride of Mangaluru.”
Acharya is obviously elated. Busy dabbling between congratulatory calls and managing his professional life, Acharya is no less than a celebrity for many. And with his plan to launch a comic book using the present image, he is hopeful of continuing with his artistic talent. Acharya now plans to gain a copyright status for the image.
It was in 2015 when Acharya created the Hanuman image on the request of his cousins and friends. He says they requested him to draw something for the flag that was to be hosted during the Ganesh festival in his village. Acharya was freelancing at that time. He had earlier drawn some mythological figures, which led to his friends approaching him. What was merely an art at that time, now has acquired the status of a symbol of Hindutva for many.
Acharya also refuses to see his creation as ‘Angry Hanuman’, but defines the expression and intensity as an attitude of the Lord. “It was on the request of my friends and cousins that I drew that expression, which is an attitude of Lord Hanuman. My friends and cousins suggested that an expression with a smile would not be appropriate for the flag and I came up with the present form within thirty minutes,” Acharya told FinancialExpress.com.
Reacting to PM Modi’s praise, Acharya said, “I was in Hyderabad for an event-related conference and did not believe when my friends informed me about being praised by the PM. Only after I saw it in the news that I could realise it.”
Acharya, a native of Kumble village of Kerala, now works in Mangaluru. A firm believer of Lord Hanuman, Acharya is delighted to be praised for his art. Hindu God Hanuman is regarded as the God of strength, who was the follower of Lord Rama, the king of Ayodhya. Hanuman Chalisa is regarded as a sacred reading of Lord Hanuman and is believed to bring peace, strength in life.
Acharya’s artistic expression has become immensely popular and has occupied spaces over car windshields, social media profile pictures, t-shirts, flags, stickers, and what not. In Delhi-NCR and many north Indian cities like Agra, Meerut, Aligarh, Jalandhar etc., the image is widely used by vehicle owners with big SUVs giving considerable space to the ‘angry’ Hanuman sticker. T-shirts worn by college going youth are now splashed with the image and is now a part of their style statement.
While Acharya admitted to its popularity in the southern cities of Bangaluru and Mangaluru, he is yet to see its popularity in the northern part of the country. “I want to come to north India to see my art being praised and used by people on their vehicles, clothes,” said Acharya.
The intense expression portayed in the image has been raised as an ideological issue and is being presented as a negative representation of what some see as the negative manifestation of Hindutva. The popular art is also under attack by some sections of people who are referring to it as angry and aggressive form of Hindutva, which they alleged is the result of the communal politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
During his election rally in Mangaluru, Prime Minister praised Acharya for his work and termed it as a pride of Mangaluru and lashed out at the opposition for creating a controversy over the art, which has captured the imagination of the nation. “The Congress’ ecosystem doesn’t even tolerate the magnificent art of Karan Acharya whose Hanuman captured the imagination of the entire country. Unable to digest its success, the Congress tried miring it in a controversy. There is no iota of democracy in the minds of Congress members,” the PM said at his May 5 rally.
But Acharya remains unperturbed by controversies and refuses to be drawn into it. Asked how he sees the image being now linked to ideological propagation, Acharya said that it is people’s perception and he does not see his art being linked to any ideology. “In my childhood, I watched Ramayana and Mahabharata with my mother and I am a Hanuman bhakt (devotee), it is my art and I will continue to make such mythological images,” said Acharya, underlining that it is just an art form and any controversy around is meaningless.
He also said that all colours (orange, green, red) are equal for him. Acharya also explained that the image has nothing to do with aggression. “I am an artist and artistic freedom is my right and those people who are creating controversy is their choice, I have nothing to do with it,” said Acharya.
Asked of any association with the Bharatiya Janata Party, he denied it outright and said that no leader from any political party has approached him until now. He said that he is a big fan and admirer of Prime Minister Modi.
Asserting that an artist becomes perfect with continuous practice and hard work, Acharya said, “I am a small artist and there are many great and bigger artists than me.”