Remembering RK Laxman, 'The Common Man' Who Immortalised The Average Indian
Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Iyer Laxman or as we call him RK Laxman was born on this day in Mysore in 1921. An Indian cartoonist and illustrator who took most of his inspiration from the common man’s life and aspirations, his works are appreciated by people belonging to each age group. From making us laugh using a humorous tone to presenting a scathing criticism of society, his cartoons still resonate in the present century. Born in a family of eight children, he was the youngest of all. His elder brother, RK Narayan, an eminent novelist of his era and creator of The Malgudi Days used his drawings and illustrations for his stories published in The Hindu.
Initially, he was rejected by the JJ School of Art in Bombay, reportedly for a lack of talent required to get into that college, but later got invited there as a chief guest. His cartoons and caricatures have become synonymous as the means to define the Indian landscape in simple terms. His first job as a cartoonist was for The Free Press Journal in Mumbai. Later in 1951, he joined The Times of India and worked there for nearly five decades. Best remembered for his creation of ‘The Common Man’ and the daily cartoon strip ‘You Said It’, his witty style has made him occupy a special place in our memories.
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He has also created a popular mascot named “Gattu”. He had a special affinity for drawing crows and he has even stated it in an interview. “But I have been watching the crows since childhood. I loved the colour on its face. It can count up to seven – number seven it can count. They have made an observation. They are very clever birds,” once shared RK Laxman. He has even drawn illustrations and cartoons which appear in the television adaptation of The Malgudi Days. Apart from this, he has been credited with the publication of numerous short stories and wrote novels namely The Hotel Riviera, The Messenger and an autobiography titled The Tunnel of Time.
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For his remarkable contributions in his field, he has been conferred with the Padma Bhushan in 1973, Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1984 and Padma Vibhushan in 2005. He received the honorary Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism by CNN-IBN TV18 in 2008. Along with so many achievements, he became the first Indian cartoonist to exhibit his work in London. With his cartoons and illustrations, he continues to live inside a common man’s world. His artistic vision transcends the century he was born in and it is relevant even in contemporary times.
Although the maestro passed away in 2015, his bespectacled dhoti-clad protagonist continues to represent India and its many idiosyncrasies.