R. K. Laxman

R. K. Laxman
Born Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Laxman
(1921-10-24)24 October 1921
Mysore, Kingdom of Mysore, British India
(now in Karnataka, India)
Died 26 January 2015(2015-01-26) (aged 93)
Pune, Maharashtra, India
Nationality Indian
Occupation Cartoonist, illustrator
Known for Common Man cartoon
Relatives R. K. Narayan (Brother)
Awards Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, Ramon Magsaysay Award
Website http://rklaxman.com/

Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Laxman[1] (24 October 1921 – 26 January 2015) was an Indian cartoonist, illustrator, and humorist.[2] He was best known for his creation The Common Man and for his daily cartoon strip, "You Said It" in The Times of India, which started in 1951.[3]

Laxman started his career as a part-time cartoonist, working mostly for local newspapers and magazines. While as a college student, he illustrated his older brother R. K. Narayan's stories in The Hindu.[4] His first full-time job was as a political cartoonist for The Free Press Journal in Mumbai. Later, he joined The Times of India, and became famous for The Common Man character.

Birth and childhood

R. K. Laxman was born in Mysore in 1921 in an Iyer family.[5] His father was a headmaster and Laxman was the youngest of eight children: namely, six sons and two daughters.[6][7] His elder brother is novelist R. K. Narayan. Laxman was known as "Pied Piper of Delhi".[8]

Laxman was engrossed by the illustrations in magazines such as The Strand, Punch, Bystander, Wide World and Tit-Bits, before he had even begun to read.[9] 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.[10] Another early influence on Laxman was the work 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.[11] Laxman notes in his autobiography, The Tunnel of Time:

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

R. K. Laxman[12]

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.[13] 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.[14]

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 enrolment in our institution as a student", and refused admission.[15] 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.[16]



Laxman's earliest work was for newspapers Rohan and magazines including 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 (which was founded in 1942 by Dr M. Shivaram who had a clinic in the Majestic area of Bangalore. He started this monthly magazine, dedicating it to humorous and satirical articles and cartoons. Shivaram himself was an eminent humourist in Kannada. He encouraged Laxman.)

Laxman held a summer job at the Gemini RohanStudios, Madras. His first full-time job was as a political cartoonist for The Free Press Journal in Mumbai, where Bal Thackeray was his cartoonist colleague. In 1951, Laxman joined The Times of India, Mumbai, beginning a career that spanned over fifty years.[17] His "Common Man" character, featured in his pocket cartoons, is portrayed as a witness to the making of democracy.[18] 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)."[19]

Other creations

Laxman also created a popular mascot for the Asian Paints Ltd group called "Gattu" in 1954.[20][21] He also wrote a few novels, the first one of which was titled The Hotel Riviera.[22] 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[23] which was written by his elder brother R. K. Narayan, directed by Shankar Nag, and a Konkan coast based Hindi sitcom, Wagle Ki Duniya. Laxman also drew caricatures of David Low, T.S. Eliot, Bertrand Russell, J.B. Priestly and Graham Greene.[22]

Personal life

Laxman was first married Kumari Kamala, a Bharatanatyam dancer and film actress 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 had no children and after their divorce Laxman married a woman whose first name was again Kamala. This was the author 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 a son Srinivas, who worked for a while with The Times of India too.[24]

In September 2003, Laxman suffered a stroke that 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.[25]


Laxman died in Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital in Pune on 26 January 2015 (India's Republic Day) at the age of 93. He was hospitalized on three days earlier for urinary tract infection and chest problems that ultimately led to multiple organ failure.[26] He had reportedly suffered multiple strokes since 2010.[22][27][28]

A cartoon that Laxman had made following the successful landing of Mangalyaan on Mars was posted by the Indian Space Research Organisation on its Facebook and Twitter pages on 27 January.[29] Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced that Laxman would be accorded a state funeral and a memorial would be built in his honour. Laxman's body was kept at the Symbiosis Institute's Pune premises near the "Common Man" statue and his body was cremated at the Vaikunth crematorium.[30]

Laxman is survived by his wife Kamala, son Srinivas, his daughter-in-law and his granddaughter Mahalaxmi Laxman.[31]

Awards and recognition

There is a chair named after R. K. Laxman at Symbiosis International University.[35]

Exhibitions by IIC

Exhibitions of Laxman's cartoons organised by Indian Institute of Cartoonists at Indian Cartoon Gallery.

DateExhibitionInaugurated by
6th Feb 2009R. K. LaxmanJayaramaraje Urs
8th Feb 2012R. K. Laxman’s Unpublished DoodlesM N Venkatachaliah, Girish Karnad
17th Aug 2013Famous FifteenTadao Kagaya (Japanese Cartoonist)
21st Oct 2013Best of Laxman...
27th Oct 2014Faces : Laxman’s Caricatures...
23rd Jan.2016START-UP R. K. Laxman from KoravanjiUsha Srinivas Laxman, M.Shivakumar, Beluru Ramamurthy
15th Oct 2016Unpublished R.K.Laxman [36]...




  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. Laxman's-eye view Archived 10 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Frontline Magazine – 18–31 July 1998
  3. "Times of India cartoonist RK Laxman dies after illness". BBC. 26 January 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  4. 10 things you need to know about RK Laxman
  5. "The Common Man is still at work". The Hindu.
  6. Kantha, Sachi Sri (2 February 2015). "Tribute to Rasipuram Krishnaswamy (R.K.) Laxman". Ilankai Tamil Sangam. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  7. Laxman 1998, p. 4
  8. "RK Laxman passes away". The Times of India. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  9. Laxman 1998, p. 8
  10. Laxman 1998, pp. 11–15
  11. Laxman 1998, p. 25
  12. Laxman 1998, p. 24
  13. Laxman 1998, pp. 23–24
  14. Laxman 1998, pp. 29–32
  15. Laxman 1998, pp. 57–60
  16. Laxman 1998, pp. 66–72
  17. Encyclopædia Britannica
  18. Ritu Gairola Khanduri. 2014. Caricaturing Culture in India: Cartoons and History of the Modern World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  19. Ritu Gairola Khanduri. 2012. "Picturing India: Nation, Development and the Common Man." Visual Anthropology 25(4): 303-323.
  20. "Colour the world". Business Line. 13 April 2000. Archived from the original on 31 December 2012.
  21. "Who is the creator of 'Gattu'?". Rediff.com. 11 July 2008.
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 Menon, Meena (26 January 2015). "The uncommon man: R.K. Laxman (1921-2015)". The Hindu. The Hindu Group. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  23. 1 2 "Celebs mourn cartoonist RK Laxman". The Times of India. The Times Group. 27 January 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  24. The uncommon man: R.K. Laxman (1921-2015)
  25. "R K Laxman hospitalized after 3 strokes, stable". Times of India. 21 June 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2010.
  26. "R K Laxman regains partial consciousness". The Times of India. 23 January 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  27. "Iconic cartoonist R K Laxman passes away in Pune after a prolonged illness at the age of 94". India Today. 26 January 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  28. "Eminent cartoonist RK Laxman dies at 94". The Times of India. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  29. Press Trust of India (27 January 2015). "ISRO pays tribute to R.K. Laxman with 'Common Man on Mars' cartoon". The Hindu. Bengaluru: The Hindu Group. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  30. Banerjee, Shoumojit (27 January 2015). "Fadnavis announces memorial for R.K. Laxman". The Hindu. Pune: The Hindu Group. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  31. The story behind a cartoon
  32. "'Common Man' cartoonist RK Laxman dead at 93". Reuters. 26 January 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  33. 1 2 Zunke, Pratiksha (7 September 2013). "Renowned cartoonist RK Laxman to be awarded Bharat Bhushan". Daily News and Analysis. Pune: Diligent Media Corporation. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  34. Vakil, Dina (27 January 2015). "RK Laxman, who immortalised the common man, was devoted to excellence". The Economic Times. The Times Group. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  35. Times News Network (19 June 2011). "RK Laxman Chair started at Symbiosis University". The Times of India.
  36. Unpublished R.K.Laxman Whatshapp Bangalore : October 13, 2016
  37. Gill, Gurkirat Singh (27 January 2015). "Unknown Facts About RK Laxman". University Express. Delhi University. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  38. "India Through the eyes of R. K. Laxman - Then To Now". Software Informer. Retrieved 27 January 2015.


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