The annual Budget speech from India’s finance minister is one of the biggest news days of the year in the country – but it can also be very boring, particularly the visuals. It usually features an old man standing in Parliament reading a long list of projects and numbers and then other old men complaining about things that are or aren’t on the list. Still there is important news in there, and so newspapers the morning after do their very best to spruce up the boring images and bring in fun headlines and illustrations.
The Economic Times’ Budget issue, for example, is almost worth looking forward to for the illustrations alone. This year, they put together an entire war movie across the paper, with a front page showing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley toting guns in military gear.
But the fun isn’t limited to the Economic Times. The Bangalore Mirror picks a clever headline instead, going with ‘Jai Shri Gram’, a reference to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s traditionally religious Jai Shri Ram slogan, except with a focus on ‘gram’ meaning village, or rural India.
Dainik Bhaskar, one of the country’s biggest newspapers, realised it may not be easy to get people to pay attention so it stole from the online playbook: Add (white) babies. The front page of the paper features babies smiling or grimacing alongside stories about what’s good and bad from the budget.
Hindustan naturally pulls from Bollywood, adapting the poster to the wrestling movie Dangal, but using illustrations of Jaitley, Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and others instead.
The Indian Express went with, well, a no-nonsense headline.
Marathi newspaper Lokmat put Jaitley on an ox-cart, with a giant briefcase of budget documents being tugged behind him.
The Economic Times’ sister publication, the Times of India also offered plenty of fun illustrations, with its front page depicting Modi and Jaitley as detectives looking at rupee notes for clues.
Calcutta’s The Telegraph, which is known for loud front pages, used a demonetisation pun and went with ‘DeMitronisation’: a reference to Modi’s common use of the word mitron (friends), at rallies.
Telugu newspaper Sakshi puts Arun Jaitley inside a Point-of-Sale machine with a debit card inserted, with the headline saying ‘Digi... Digi... steps.’
The Malyalam Manorama turns Jaitley into a jeans-wearing Aadhaar-tattoo-ed youngster, with the headline saying “concession in tax, restriction in cash,” a reference to tax breaks that the finance minister announced.
Tamil newspaper Dinamalar has an Indian seeming to flex its Eastern muscle, with the headline exclaiming ‘happiness for the common man!’
Dinakaran, also from Tamil Nadu, shows Jaitley as a cook, serving up some Budget dishes, and later even uses a fun heart illustration to reference the announcements on irrigation and dairy.