R. K. Laxman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Born (1921-10-24) 24 October 1921 (age 93)
Mysore, India
Occupation Cartoonist, Illustrator
Family R. K. Narayan (brother)
Signature RKLaxman.jpg

Rasipuram Laxman [1] (born 24 October 1921[2]) is an Indian cartoonist, illustrator, and humorist.[3] He is best known for his creation The Common Man, for his daily cartoon strip, "You Said It" in The Times of India, which started in 1951.

Birth and childhood[edit]

R. K. Laxman was born in Mysore. His father was a headmaster and Laxman was the youngest of six sons;[4] an older brother is the famous novelist R. K. Narayan.

Laxman was engrossed by the illustrations in magazines such as The Strand Magazine, Punch, Bystander, Wide World and Tit-Bits, even before he could read.[5] Soon he was drawing on his own, on the floors, walls and doors of his house and doodling caricatures of his teachers at school; praised by a teacher for his drawing of a peepal leaf, he began to think of himself as an artist in the making.[6] Another early influence on Laxman were the cartoons of the world-renowned British cartoonist, Sir David Low (whose signature he misread as "cow" for a long time) that appeared now and then in The Hindu.[7] Laxman notes in his autobiography, The Tunnel of Time:

Laxman was the captain of his local "Rough and Tough and Jolly" cricket team and his antics inspired the stories "Dodu the money maker" and "The Regal Cricket Club" written by his brother, Narayan.[9] Laxman's idyllic childhood was shaken for a while when his father suffered a paralytic stroke and died around a year later, but the elders at home bore most of the increased responsibility, while Laxman continued with his schooling.[10]

After high school, Laxman applied to the J. J. School of Art, Bombay 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 enrollment in our institution as a student", and refused admission.[11] 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.[12]



Laxman's earliest work was for newspapers and magazines such as Swarajya and Blitz . While still at the Maharaja College of Mysore, he began to illustrate his elder brother R K Narayan's stories in The Hindu, and he drew political cartoons for the local newspapers and for the Swatantra. Laxman also drew cartoons, for the Kannada humour magazine, Koravanji. Incidentally, Koravanji was founded in 1942 by Dr M Shivaram who was an allopath and had a clinic around Majestic area in Bangalore. He started this monthly magazine, dedicating it to hilarious/satirical articles and cartoons. Dr Shivaram himself was an eminent humourist in Kannada. He encouraged Laxman quite a lot. He held a summer job at the Gemini Studios, Madras. His first full-time job was as a political cartoonist for the The Free Press Journal in Mumbai, Bal Thackeray, was his colleague. Laxman later joined The Times of India, beginning a career that has spanned for over fifty years. His "common man" character, featured in his pocket cartoons,is portrayed as a witness to the making of democracy.[13] Anthropologist Ritu G. Khanduri notes, "R. K. Laxman structures his cartoon-news through a plot about corruption and a set of characters. This news is visualized and circulates through the recurring figures of the mantri (Minister), the Common Man and the trope of modernity symbolized by the airplane (2012: 304)."[14]

Other creations[edit]

He also created a popular mascot for the Asian Paints group called Gattu in 1954.[15][16] Laxman has also penned a few novels. His cartoons have appeared in Hindi films such as Mr. & Mrs. '55 and a Tamil film Kamaraj. His creations also include the sketches drawn for the television adaptation of Malgudi Days which was written by his elder brother R K Narayan and directed by Shankar Nag. Laxman also drew caricatures of friends for private purposes.

R K Laxman Chair at Symbiosis International University[edit]

There is a chair named after R. K. Laxman at Symbiosis International University.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Laxman was first married to the Bharatanatyam dancer and film actress Kumari Kamala Laxman, who began her film career as a child actress named "Baby Kamala," and graduated into adult roles under the name "Kumari Kamala" ("Miss Kamala"). They were divorced, and Laxman later married a lady whose first name was again Kamala. This was the authoress and children's book writer Kamala Laxman. In a cartoon series named "The star I never met" in film magazine Filmfare he painted a cartoon of Kamala Laxman, with the title "The star I only met!". The couple had no children and divided their time between Mumbai and Pune.

In September 2003, Laxman was affected by a stroke which left him paralysed on his left side. He has partly recovered from its effects. On the evening of 20 June 2010, Laxman was admitted to Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai after being transported by an air ambulance from Pune. His condition was said to be stable.[18]

In October 2012 Laxman celebrated his 91st birthday in Pune. During a private gathering at his residence, Laxman cut the cake and was presented a DVD of a documentary titled The Brainy Crow by his fan Rajvardhan Patil, depicting the life and survival of the favourite bird of the cartoonist. Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, who had a past association with Laxman as a cartoonist, sent birthday greetings to him, family sources said. Scientist Jayant Narlikar and Symbiosis University chancellor S. B. Mujumdar also came to greet him on the occasion.


  1. Padma Vibhushan – Govt. of India, 2005
  2. Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts – 1984
  3. Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism – CNN IBN TV18, 29 January 2008
  4. 'Pune Pandit' Award (Scholar of Pune Award) by the Art & Music Foundation for excellence in 'Creative Communication' – 2012
  5. Honorary Doctorate awarded to V.S. Laxman from the government of Karnataka.


  • He Said It "The Common Man." Speaks...Wheelman Press
  • The Eloquent Brush: A Selection of Cartoons from Nehru to Rajiv
  • 50 Years of Independence through the eyes of R.K.Laxman
  • The Best of Laxman series
  • Hotel Riviera
  • The Messenger
  • Servants of India
  • The Tunnel of Time (autobiography)
  • His autobiography Lakshmanrekha is published in Marathi.
  • The Reel World [cartoons]published by Marwah Studios
  • Brushing Up The Years- A Cartoonist's History of India- 1947 to the Present- Penguin Books


  • India Through The Eyes of R. K. Laxman – Then To Now (CD-ROM).
  • Laxman Rekhas-A TOI Publication
  • R K Laxman Ki Duniya – A Television show on SAB TV.


  1. ^ Ranga Rao (1 January 2006). R.K. Narayan. Sahitya Akademi. p. 11. ISBN 978-81-260-1971-7. Retrieved 11 March 2012.  Pg.11 in the source says that Laxman & his brother Narayan were Tamil Iyer Brahmins.
  2. ^ "The Common Man is still at work". The Hindu. 
  3. ^ Laxman's-eye view Frontline Magazine – 18–31 July 1998
  4. ^ Laxman 1998, p. 4
  5. ^ Laxman 1998, p. 8
  6. ^ Laxman 1998, pp. 11–15
  7. ^ Laxman 1998, p. 25
  8. ^ Laxman 1998, p. 24
  9. ^ Laxman 1998, pp. 23–24
  10. ^ Laxman 1998, pp. 29–32
  11. ^ Laxman 1998, pp. 57–60
  12. ^ Laxman 1998, pp. 66–72
  13. ^ Ritu Gairola Khanduri. 2014. Caricaturing Culture in India: Cartoons and History of the Modern World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  14. ^ Ritu Gairola Khanduri. 2012. "Picturing India: Nation, Development and the Common Man." Visual Anthropology 25(4): 303-323.
  15. ^ "Colour the world". Business Line. 13 April 2000. 
  16. ^ "Who is the creator of 'Gattu'?". Rediff.com. 11 July 2008. 
  17. ^ RK Laxman Chair started at Symbiosis University, TNN 19 June 2011, 01.41am IST
  18. ^ "R K Laxman hospitalized after 3 strokes, stable". Times of India. 21 June 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2010.