Rasipuram Krishnaswami Laxman
24 October 1921
|Died||26 January 2015 (aged 93)|
|Known for||Common Man|
|Spouse(s)||Kumari Kamala, Kamala Laxman|
|Relatives||R. K. Narayan (Brother)|
Ramon Magsaysay Award
Rasipuram Krishnaswami Laxman (24 October 1921 – 26 January 2015) was an Indian cartoonist, illustrator, and humorist. He is best known for his creation The Common Man and for his daily cartoon strip, You Said It in The Times of India, which started in 1951.
R. K. Laxman started his career as a part-time cartoonist, working mostly for local newspapers and magazines. While as a college student, he illustrated his older brother R. K. Narayan's stories in The Hindu. His first full-time job was as a political cartoonist for The Free Press Journal in Mumbai. Later, he joined The Times of India, and became famous for The Common Man character, which turned out to be the turning point in Laxman's life.
R. K. Laxman was born in Mysore in 1921 in a Tamil Hindu brahmin family. His father was a headmaster and Laxman was the youngest of eight children: six sons and two daughters. His elder brother was renowned novelist R.K. Narayan. Laxman was known as "Pied Piper of Delhi".
Laxman was engrossed by the illustrations in magazines such as The Strand, Punch, Bystander, Wide World and Tit-Bits, before he had even begun to read. Soon he was drawing on his own, on the floors, walls and doors of his house and doodling caricatures of his teachers at school; praised by a teacher for his drawing of a peepal leaf, he began to think of himself as an artist in the making. Another early influence on Laxman was the work of the world-renowned British cartoonist, Sir David Low (whose signature he misread as "cow" for a long time) that appeared now and then in The Hindu. Laxman notes in his autobiography, The Tunnel of Time:
I drew objects that caught my eye outside the window of my room – the dry twigs, leaves and lizard-like creatures crawling about, the servant chopping firewood and, of course, and number of crows in various postures on the rooftops of the buildings opposite— R. K. Laxman
Laxman was the captain of his local "Rough and Tough and Jolly" cricket team and his antics inspired the stories "Dodu the Money Maker" and "The Regal Cricket Club" written by his brother, Narayan. Laxman's idyllic childhood was shaken for a while when his father suffered a paralytic stroke and died around a year later, but the elders at home bore most of the increased responsibility, while Laxman continued with his schooling.
After high school Maharaja's Govt. High School, Mysore, Laxman applied to the Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art hoping to concentrate on his lifelong interests of drawing and painting, but the dean of the school wrote to him that his drawings lacked "the kind of talent to qualify for enrolment in our institution as a student", and refused admission. He finally graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Mysore. In the meantime he continued his freelance artistic activities and contributed cartoons to Swarajya and an animated film based on the mythological character Narada.
R.K Laxman's earliest work was for newspapers Rohan and magazines including Swarajya and Blitz. While still at the Maharaja College of Mysore, he began to illustrate his elder brother R. K. Narayan's stories in The Hindu, and he drew political cartoons for the local newspapers and for the Swatantra. Laxman also drew cartoons for the Kannada humour magazine, Koravanji which was founded in 1942 by Dr M. Shivaram who had a clinic in the Majestic area of Bangalore. He started this monthly magazine, dedicating it to humorous and satirical articles and cartoons. Shivaram himself was an eminent humourist in Kannada. He encouraged Laxman.
Laxman held a summer job at the Gemini Studios, Madras. His first full-time job was as a political cartoonist for The Free Press Journal in Mumbai, where Bal Thackeray was his cartoonist colleague. In 1951, Laxman joined The Times of India, Mumbai, beginning a career that spanned over fifty years. His "Common Man" character, featured in his pocket cartoons, is portrayed as a witness to the making of democracy. Anthropologist Ritu G. Khanduri notes, "R. K. Laxman structures his cartoon-news through a plot about corruption and a set of characters. This news is visualized and circulates through the recurring figures of the mantri (minister), the Common Man and the trope of modernity symbolized by the airplane (2012: 304)."
Laxman also created a popular mascot for the Asian Paints Ltd group called "Gattu" in 1954. He also wrote a few novels, the first one of which was titled The Hotel Riviera. His cartoons have appeared in Hindi films such as Mr. & Mrs. '55 and a Tamil film Kamaraj. His creations also include the sketches drawn for the television adaptation of Malgudi Days which was written by his elder brother R. K. Narayan, directed by Shankar Nag, and a Konkan coast based Hindi sitcom, Wagle Ki Duniya. Laxman also drew caricatures of David Low, T.S. Eliot, Bertrand Russell, J.B. Priestly and Graham Greene.
Laxman was first married to Kumari Kamala, a Bharatanatyam dancer and film actress who began her film career as a child actress named "Baby Kamala" and graduated into adult roles under the name "Kumari Kamala" ("Miss Kamala"). They had no children and after their divorce in 1960 Laxman married his niece whose first name was again Kamala. She was the author and children's book writer Kamala Laxman. In a cartoon series named "The star I never met" in film magazine Filmfare he painted a cartoon of Kamala Laxman, with the title "The star I only met!" The couple had a son Srinivas, who worked for a while with The Times of India too.
In September 2003, Laxman suffered a stroke that left him paralysed on his left side. He recovered from it partially. On the evening of 20 June 2010, Laxman was admitted to Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai after being transported by an air ambulance from Pune.
Laxman died in Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital in Pune on India's Republic Day in 2015 at the age of 93. He was hospitalised three days earlier for a urinary tract infection and chest problems that ultimately led to multiple organ failure. He had reportedly suffered multiple strokes since 2010.
A cartoon that Laxman had made following the successful landing of Mangalyaan on Mars was posted by the Indian Space Research Organisation on its Facebook and Twitter pages on 27 January. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced that Laxman would be accorded a state funeral and a memorial would be built in his honour. Laxman's body was kept at the Symbiosis Institute's Pune premises near the "Common Man" statue and his body was cremated at the Vaikunth crematorium.
There is a chair named after R. K. Laxman at Symbiosis International University.
Exhibitions of Laxman's cartoons organised by Indian Institute of Cartoonists at Indian Cartoon Gallery.
|6th Feb 2009||R. K. Laxman||Jayaramaraje Urs|
|8th Feb 2012||R. K. Laxman's Unpublished Doodles||M N Venkatachaliah, Girish Karnad|
|17th Aug 2013||Famous Fifteen||Tadao Kagaya (Japanese Cartoonist)|
|21st Oct 2013||Best of Laxman||...|
|27th Oct 2014||Faces : Laxman's Caricatures||...|
|23rd Jan.2016||START-UP R. K. Laxman from Koravanji||Usha Srinivas Laxman, M.Shivakumar, Beluru Ramamurthy|
|15th Oct 2016||Unpublished R.K.Laxman ||...|
|14th Oct 2020||hadhi Exhibition on his 100th Birth Anniversary||...|
(He also wrote a book named Banker Margiah in Kannada to create awareness about Banking, about how to open a bank account by a common man. Later a movie was reseased. Which was awarded National Award as well.).