Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Laxman, popularly known as R.K. Laxman was born on October 24, 1921. Needless to mention, he was best known for his creation “The Common Man??? and his daily cartoon strip “You Said It??? in the Times of India, which started in 1951.
Today, on his 94th birthday let’s look into few little-known facts about him.
1. R.K Narayana and R.K Laxman are brothers! *yeah R.K R.K sounds family*
How hard it is for you to believe that your favourite childhood stories, “Malgudi Days??? shares connection with this man? Yup! The creator of Malgudi Days, R.K Narayan is the elder brother of R.K. Laxman. The illustrations that appear on the TV adaptations of Malgudi Days were drawn by R.K Laxman. Their genes have got the talent! *wink*
2. BAL THACKERAY AND RK LAXMAN WERE COLLEAGUES.
All of us know Bal Thackrey, isn’t it? Surprisingly, Bal Thackrey and R.K Laxman shared a great bond. R.K. Laxman started his career at The Free Press Journal where Bal Thackrey also worked for brief period of time as a cartoonist. They were colleagues back then and eventually became great friends. Back in 2010, when R.K Laxman was hospitalised due to a chronic illness, Bal Thackrey came to visit him. That speaks enough for their friendship!
3. THE ‘COMMON MAN’ WAS NOT ALONE, INITIALLY!
R.K Laxman was trying to depict different cultures and states in his sketch when he started drawing cartoons for The Times of India. Due to a volcanic deadline, the cartoons in the background started vanishing and the final sketch was left with one character dressed in dhoti and plaid jacket- who turned out to be the iconic The Common Man.
4. RK LAXMAN WAS THE HIGHEST PAID EMPLOYEE AT THE TIMES OF INDIA
He worked with The Times of India for more than 60 years. The cartoon strip, “You Said It??? was started in 1951. For many of us, even though we didn’t understand the nuances of politics and economy, we checked out his cartoon and laughed. Such was RK Laxman’s stature at the Times of India, that till he was there, he was the highest paid employee.
5. RK LAXMAN WAS A SELF-TAUGHT ARTIST.
Pretty hard to believe this. How could someone be exceptionally good in cartooning without a professional training? But R.K. Laxman was! His inspiration was Sir David Low. Sir David Low himself was a self-taught political cartoonist. R. K. Laxman was inspired by a lot of his works in this field, and began to explore his creative side, training himself to get better and better, till he became the most recognised cartoonist in the country.
6. RK LAXMAN WAS DENIED ADMISSION INTO JJ SCHOOL OF ARTS, MUMBAI
Absolutely unbelievable, isn’t it? R. K. Laxman wanted to pursue his interest and study “Arts??? and that is when he applied at Sir JJ School of Arts. But his application was refused. The dean wrote to him saying he lacks the talent to qualify to be enrolled as a student at the institution. Irony, however, had the last laugh. Years later, he was invited for a lecture as a Chief Guest to the same college.
7. COMMON MAN’S STAMP AND STATUE
On the 150th Anniversary of The Times of India in the year 1988, a commemorative postal stamp featuring The Common Man was released. Also, a 8-feet tall bronze statue of The Common Man stands in front of the Vishwabhavan building of the Symbiosis University, Pune.
8. RK LAXMAN DESIGNED THE ‘ASIAN PAINTS’ MASCOT
We have all seen advertisements by Asian Paints that feature a cute boy holding a paint brush. That kid – Gattu, the mascot of Asian Paints, was created by R.K. Laxman in the year 1954. Also, The Common Man, was also used by Air Deccan as its Mascot.
9. RK LAXMAN’S CARTOONS INSPIRED A TV SHOW
A comedy show named, “R.K. Laxman ki duniya??? was aired on Sony India’s channel SAB TV. The show had more than 200 episodes and it featured R.K. Laxman’s cartoons, while dealing with the themes common to Laxman – the problems of the common man.
10. PRESTIGIOUS AWARDS ADORN HIS SHELF
R.K. Laxman was honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 1971 and later in 2005, he was awarded Padma Vibhushan. Apart from these, he was given an honorary doctorate from the University of Mysore. CNBC TV 18 awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award as a journalist.
11. RK LAXMAN WAS OBSESSED WITH CROWS!
RK Laxman revealed in an interview that he learnt drawing by observing various objects outside his window, and one of his favourite obsessions was the crow. Apparently, Laxman loved the crow because of their intelligence. On a humorous note, his wife Kamala once said, “He likes crows for their colour and also because the bird is very intelligent. He loves crows more than me!”.
Rest in peace, RK Laxman.
Your work continues to inspire millions of aspiring artists in the country. Your cartoons gave Indians a moment of laughter every single morning. It helped us rise up, laugh, and survive in the chaos that comes with living in India as a common man!
You are missed every single day!
(Feature Image courtesy: Google Doodle. All other images courtesy: The Times of India)