If there is one thing every Indian looked forward to each morning, it was a cartoon of the ‘Common Man’ in the daily newspaper. This wasn’t just about any cartoon, this was a R. K. Laxman cartoon. Every morning we surfed through the pages of the newspaper to find a cartoon snugly fit on the corner of the page, it was a ritual of sorts. This man made people take cartoons seriously!
The ‘The Common Man’ was a metaphorical mirror of the common average Indian. For over 50 years he doodled dozens of cartoons that projected the hopes, fears, aspirations, troubles and sometimes even the short comings of the Indian man in his comic strip ‘You Said It’ in the Times Of India.
When Laxman joined The Times Of India, he attempted to portray the different states and cultures of India, but like most of us, deadlines got in the way of his imagination and creativity. He began to draw fewer and fewer background characters, until he found only one remaining- the now familiar- Common Man. He is generally the silent observer and witness to all the action in the comic. According to anthropologist Ritu Gairola Khanduri, “Clad in a dhoti and a plaid jacket, the puzzled Common Man is no dupe: his sharp observations miss no detail of the political circus.”
His rather satirical take on the country’s various political, economic and social situations through his cartoons was different and refreshing.
The humorous representation of serious issues made it easier for people to understand and relate to these matters. His is creations also include the sketches drawn for the television adaptation of Malgudi Days which was written by his elder brother R.K Narayan.
R.K Laxman was also conferred with the Padma Vibhushan in 2005, Padma Bhushan in 1973, Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts in 1984.
On his birth anniversary today, here’s our pick of his most commendable cartoons-
This was way back in 1990, however, not much has changed in the politics of Maharashtra politics. It shows a negotiation in the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. It shows the Shiv Sena supremo offering a stool to the BJP. It was a humorous take on the power tussle between both the parties.
This cartoon depicted the strained relations of India and Sri Lanka. Both the countries have tried to resolve the tensions. Laxman’s cartoon threw light on this sensitive issue.
Laxman explaining the faulty budget analysis of the Indian economy. It also shows Dr. Manmohan Singh, the then Prime Minister in the thick of things as the common man silently observes in one corner. There was quite an uproar around this particular cartoon.
This was after the Salman Khan hit and run case. It was hilarious, yet it brought to light a very grave scenario. It has been a controversy since the last 13 years and is still to be solved.
This is a personal favorite. The juxtaposition of the Mahatma Gandhi road, the epitome of everything Indian and the host of international brands like Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Gucci etc. It was a funny yet grim reminder for us not to forget our roots.
Over decades and generations, this man’s cartoons were a constant. It witnessed the making of India and it’s people for which legendary cartoonist, humorist and illustrator has left an indelible mark on our hearts and minds forever.