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R. K. Laxman

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Name- Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Laxman

DOB- 24 October 1921 Mysore, Kingdom of Mysore, British India (now in Karnataka, India)

Known as- Cartoonist & Creator of 'The Common Man"

DOD- 26 January 2015 (aged 93) Pune, Maharashtra, India



Early Life and Education

He was born as Rasipuram Krishnaswami Laxman on October 24, 1921 in Mysore, India, at the home of a headmaster. He was the youngest of six brothers and also had one sister. The famous writer, R. K Narayan was his elder brother. He loved to draw from a young age and would cover the floors and walls of his house with doodles. He spent a lot of time observing the drawings and illustrations in the magazines and would try to copy them. As he grew up he started drawing caricatures of his father and teachers, much to the amusement of his siblings and classmates. One of his brothers, Narayan was a budding writer and Laxman used to illustrate the stories his brother wrote.

He was highly impressed by the works of the British cartoonist Sir David Low whose works often appeared in ‘The Hindu’. He enjoyed an idyllic childhood, playing with his brothers and observing nature. Unfortunately tragedy struck when his father suffered a paralytic stroke and died. However, he received the support of his extended family and could carry on his life. Having decided that he wanted to become an artist he applied to the J. J. School of Art, Bombay, after completing high school. The art school, however, rejected him saying that he lacked the talent to join the institution as a student. He then enrolled at the University of Mysore from where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.


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Even as a student he had started contributing illustrations to newspapers and magazines. After graduation he continued his freelance work and contributed cartoons to ‘Swarajya’. He also drew illustrations for an animated film based on the mythological character Narada, working as a part of an animated film unit at Gemini Studios in Madras. He then moved to Bombay to explore newer avenues. There he tried his luck at several newspapers and finally started working for R.K. Karanjia’s weekly publication, ‘Blitz’. This proved to be his first break and he soon became popular as a cartoonist.

In 1946 he joined the ‘Free Press Journal’ as a political cartoonist. It was here that he met fellow cartoonist Bal Thackeray who would eventually become a famous politician in future. He worked very hard at his job, and often did more than what the salary justified. He toiled for hours each day and produced a political cartoon every other day. However, some differences with his bosses made him leave the publication. By now he has become a renowned cartoonist and was appointed by ‘The Times of India’ in 1947 on a salary of Rs. 500—a princely sum in those days. Initially he provided illustrations for the ‘Illustrated Weekly of India’ and comic strips for a children’s magazine.

Though he possessed a keen sense of politics, his editors did not appreciate his political cartoons much. But they changed their minds when one of his cartoons appeared in the ‘Evening News of India’ and was well received by the readers. Soon, his cartoons started appearing on the front page of ‘The Times of India’, and his reputation as a cartoonist grew day by day. Eventually, he became the paper’s chief political cartoonist.


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It was while working at ‘The Times of India’ that he came up with the idea for the cartoon strip ‘You Said It’, featuring the “Common Man”. The strip was witty and funny while at the same time serious and sarcastic. The Common Man was a mute spectator to the events unfolding before him—he represented the silent majority of India. He was also a writer in addition to being a cartoonist. Some of his novels are ‘The Hotel Riviera’ (1988) and ‘The Messenger ‘(1993). A collection of his short stories, essays and articles was published as ‘The Distorted Mirror’ in 2003.


Personal Life

He was once married to Bharatanatyam dancer and film actress Kumari Kamala but the marriage ended in divorce. He later remarried another woman, also named Kamala. His second wife wrote books for children.

In September 2003, Laxman suffered a stroke which left him paralysed on his left side. He recovered from it partially. 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.


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Laxman died in Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital in Pune on 26 January 2015 (India's Republic Day) at the age of 93.



Padma Bhushan – Govt. of India – 1973

Padma Vibhushan – Govt. of India – 2005

Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts – 1984

Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism – CNN IBN TV18 – 29 January 2008

Pune Pandit Award (Scholar of Pune Award) by the Art & Music Foundation for excellence in 'Creative Communication' – 2012

Honorary Doctorate from the University of Mysore – 2004


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