RK Laxman: Common Man’s Uncommon Creator!

 The master of irony in idiosyncrasy

(A man of fearless expression and supreme talent. In memory of a legend that the country has lived with and a voice that was symbolic of the unity in diversity.)

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Source- Google images

For decades, one man has relentlessly captured the nation’s mood in irony and humor coupled with wit and excellence. As a political journalist, he has kept the nation’s funny bone intact and used satire and symbolism to reflect the nation’s opinion and without being offensive. The evening of 26th January,2015 marked an end to the life of  the creator of the ‘Common Man’ but his legacy shall stay on.


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Source- Google images

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Known as the Pied Piper of Delhi, Rashipuram Krishnaswami Laxman was born on 24th October,1921 in Mysore, British India. Popularly acclaimed for the brimming creativity and originality of thought and expression in his daily comic strip, ‘You Said It’ , featured in the Times of India, his cartoons have exemplified trivial and significant issues pertaining to the democratic setup of the country and reflected on the inherent corruption, modernity and conflict.

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Source- Google images

In his autobiography, The Tunnel of Time, Laxman quotes, “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.” Deeply inspired by British cartoonist Sir David Low, Laxman decided to pursue his passion for drawing and painting, and applied to JJ School of Arts,Bombay.  Ironically, the principal rejected him saying that ‘his cartoons lacked the required talent for the institute’ but years later, RK Laxman was invited as the chief  guest at the institute. Consequentially,  he graduated from University of Mysore and worked for The Free Press Journal in Mumbai later. A fallout with his colleagues led to Laxman’s resignation and brought the gem to Times of India. Little did he know that this would be his calling!
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He wit fully mastered the knack of mockery and sarcasm and a small column helped him voice some of the strongest opinions that the nation had ever witnessed. His illustrations were representative of a societal perspective and often landed him amidst controversy as well. Whether it was the Nehru caricature post Sino-Indian war or Rajiv Gandhi in a cradle or the recently debated Anti-Hindu/Tamil poster in NCERT books. Regardless, he was undeterred and unafraid to say what he wanted.
Though he was often considered rather arrogant and blunt for his demeanor, Laxman certainly qualifies as one of India’s supremely talented political cartoonists. Former editor of TOI, Dileep Padgonkar describes him as “uncontrollable and unaffected by any sort of pressure or criticism.”
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Despite his much talked-about crude approach, the sheer brilliance of his work has won him numerous laureates including Padma Vibhushan (2005), Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Communication Arts (1984) and an Honorary Doctorate from University of Mysore (2004). As a token of regard to the master of satire, Devandra Fadnavis, Maharashtra CM has announced a memorial to be built in his honor. Among his notable works are The Hotel Riviera, Laugh with Laxman, Distorted Mirror and others. In addition, he stands as the only cartoonist from India to have been invited for an exhibition to London on his favourite subject of crows and Ganesha.
He was a man who lived by the rawness and intrigue of life. He was the gem who gave a deeper meaning to the art of visual & creative illustration. He has astoundingly strived to be the expressionist of both a hard-hitting reality and of shining prowess. Even today, his cartoons hold the power to move us and make us smile in the same moment. And that is why he will be our ever-relevant mirror.

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(In honor of the greatest cartoonist and realist that the nation has ever seen.)

By Pratishtha Khattar

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