Apart from his gift of turning real life people into engaging caricatures, courage, sense of humour, ability to observe all the absurdity that happens in the society; were some of the few qualities of RK Laxman.
“A cartoonist is a visual artist who specializes in drawing cartoons”. This is the wikipedia definition of a cartoonist. However, RK Laxman’s definition is a bit simpler “A cartoonist enjoys not a great man but a ridiculous man.” Well, Mr. Laxman didn’t just draw cartoon he gave them life and voice through the issues of the general public. India call him a legend, However it is a shame that our youth generation have no idea “Who is R K Laxman? ”.
Knowing R.K Laxman
Rasipuram Krishnaswami Laxman was born in 1921 in a middle class family at Mysore. He was a headmaster’s son. As a kid, Laxman was given the freedom to explore his thoughts and pursue his interests. The liberal nature of his parents was a major reason behind his rise as a cartoonist. He had six elder brothers and one of them was writer R.K. Narayan (World famous for Malgudi days, The Guide etc…)
He started sketching at a very young age of five. He would sketch at anytime and anywhere. As a kid, he drew on the book, on the floor, walls of his house and almost everywhere. He was very keen on sketching real life people from his surroundings like the cow crossing a street, a man buying vegetable, kids playing etc.
R.K. Laxman never had formal training on sketching. His skills were natural and developed by prolonged years of practice, dedication and hard work. He also was the first cartoonist to exhibit in London. His life story and achievements make him a perfect role model not only to young cartoonists but also to countless other artists around the world.
Some of the famous creations by R.K. Laxman:
Cartoons and Politics
Laxman was called “Pied Piper of Delhi”. His sketches had an extraordinary ability of capturing the interest of the readers. With his sketches, adults started loving cartoons and youngsters started taking keen interest in the politics of India.
Laxman sketched about scenarios that annoyed or intrigued him. He portrayed every serious situation with a great sense of humour. The one liners on his cartoon became quite popular amongst the masses. Laxman’s career took a big leap when he was hired by “The Times of India”. He started creating a comic trip called You Said It. This is when he sketched his masterpiece “The Common Man”. The newspaper reading was incomplete without the “You said it” strip.
This was one of the most famous characters created by R.K. Laxman for the daily comic strip “You Said It” in The Times of India. It was created in 1951. The common man was a character who mostly stood as a silent witness to the different events that happened in the politics of a democratic India.
Here is Laxman’s quote on the creation of common man :
“He was bald and bespectacled . . . He had a permanently bewildered look and was dressed in a dhoti and a checked coat. This man finally minimized my deadline agonies and took over the strenuous task of representing the mute mil- lions of the country.”
In a journal published for American political science association author Sushmita Chatterjee stats that
“Laxman’s cartoons have only a single line of text, but that single line has a distinct story to tell. The cartoons are cut-off at critical moments, a sudden freezing of the frame with something before and something after it, the before, the present, and the after being the storytelling, connecting critical understanding to experience. Even though cartoons appear in isolated frames, they tell stories, they have a history. Laxman’s cartoons provide a history of modern India not only in terms of its chronological breadth but also in showcasing the history of its democracy; its grappling with poverty, unemployment, ineffective policy deci- sions, etc. Most important, it showcases the forward movement” Res.
There are countless cartoonists and sketch artists in India but when it comes to storytelling in oneline not many are as good as R.K Narayan. It is the reason why he still remains one of the most influential cartoonists from India. He was known for his personality, hard work, wit and courage. Here are some of the quotes that will give you a glimpse of his work and personality:
“My sketch pen is not a sword, it’s my friend.”
“Cartooning is the art of insult and ridicule.”
“Change? Does the colour of the sky change ever? My symbol will never change.”
“Crows are so good looking, so intelligent. Where will I find characters like that in politics?”
“Every single tree spelt adventure. I would scramble right to their top and watch the world from the heights.”
“Frankly, our politics is so sad that if I had not been a cartoonist, I would have committed suicide.”
“Generally, people take everything for granted. They hardly see anything around them.”
“It is impossible to say how to become a cartoonist; you have to be born with the gift, just as you cannot tell someone how to sing.”
“The cartoon contains observation, sense of humour, sense of the ridiculous and contradiction – life!”
His work will help you track the history of the democracy of India. This great legend passed away this year on the 26th January (Republic Day of India). We will always remember him through his works cartoons, books and of course Malgudi days.
Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena Chief(Son of Balasaheb Thackeray) said :
“R K Laxman and Balasaheb were cartoonists of the same era, who started their career in Free Press Journal. Both had immense love for each other till the end. During his illness, Balasaheb had met Laxman several times and both fondly remembered their old days. This made Laxman smile even in his illness”
After his demise, countless famous personalities and organizations paid their tribute. Here are few that caught our attention:
Times of India (@timesofindia) January 27, 2015
India will miss you RK Laxman. We are grateful to you for adding the much needed humour in our lives & always bringing smiles on our faces.—
Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 26, 2015
Sad to know about the passing away of legendary cartoonist RK Laxman - he was truly the voice of Aam Aadmi.—
Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) January 26, 2015
The Man who expressed so much for and as the Common Man is no more. Deepest Condolences to his family and friends.#rklaxman—
sachin tendulkar (@sachin_rt) January 26, 2015
This article was our tribute to the great Rasipuram Krishnaswami Laxman. We will truly miss him but his cartoons and books will surely help in filling the void and continue to make us smile.
Here are some of his best cartoon galleries: