Remembering RK Laxman

OV Digital Desk

Rasipuram Krishnaswami Laxman (24 October 1921 – 26 January 2015) was an Indian cartoonist, humorist, and illustrator. He is best known for his creation “The Common Man” which represented the hope, dream, troubles of an average person. In his career of five decades, he worked for various newspapers. He started his career as a part-time cartoonist while studying. Meantime, 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.

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has paid tributes to cartoonist RK Laxman on his 100th birth anniversary. Shri Modi shared the speech that he delivered when he released the book “Timeless Laxman ‘in 2018. In a tweet, the Prime Minister said, “On his 100th birth anniversary, remembering the versatile RK Laxman. Through his cartoons, he beautifully conveyed the socio-political realities of the times. Sharing a speech from 2018, when I had released the book, ‘Timeless Laxman.’

He was born in Mysuru and brought up as the youngest of seven siblings, and he developed an affinity for drawing at an early age. He did his high school from Maharaja’s Govt. High School, Mysuru. Upon completion, he 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.

After completing his studies, he held a job at Gemini Studios, Madras. Later, he joined The Free Press Journal in Mumbai as a political cartoonist for where Bal Thackeray was his cartoonist colleague. In 1951, Laxman joined The Times of India, Mumbai, beginning a career that spanned over fifty years. Laxman also created a popular mascot for the Asian Paints Ltd group called “Gattu” in 1954. His creations also include the sketches drawn for the television adaptation of Malgudi Days which was written by his elder brother R. K. Narayan.

He was honored with Padma Bhushan in 1973, Padma Vibhushan in 2005 by the Government of India. He was also bestowed with Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts in 1984. There is a chair named after R. K. Laxman at Symbiosis International University.

Laxman died in Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital in Pune on India’s Republic Day in 2015 at the age of 93. He was hospitalized three days earlier for a urinary tract infection and chest problems that led to multiple organ failures. He had reportedly suffered multiple strokes since 2010.