Life & Style

Memoirs from the uncommon man

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A peek into the doodles of veteran cartoonist RK Laxman in an ongoing exhibition of his unpublished works offers life lessons and more

It is very important to laugh. Especially in the hustle and bustle of today’s world, we forget to see the funny side of life. And that is why sometimes we need a reminder – a memory, a joke or, in this case, a cartoon, to bring a smile on our faces.

That was the power of RK Laxman’s illustrations. The celebrated Indian cartoonist, illustrator and humourist did the one thing that almost all of us need the most in our lives – remind us to laugh. Although the veteran caricaturist passed away in January 2015, his work, both published and unpublished, still holds relevance today. And that is the crux of the ongoing exhibition of 95 of ‘The Unpublished Works of RK Laxman’ hosted by the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru, in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Cartoonists.

K Jairaj, former Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka, who inaugurated the exhibition, catches up during the tour of the unpublished works and says: “RK Laxman is an extraordinary observer of human events. He has such a vivid imagination. His portrayal of daily life is still relevant and contemporary. There is no malice in his work. This is a treasure chest. I encourage everyone to come and see it. But, of course, you must come with an uncritical and open mind if you want to enjoy it.”

Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Laxman started his career as a part-time cartoonist, working mostly for local newspapers and magazines. As a college student, he illustrated his elder brother RK Narayan’s stories in The Hindu. His first full-time job was as a political cartoonist for The Free Press Journal in Mumbai and he was one of the cartoonists to capture India’s first 60 years of Independence. Renowned for his creation ‘The Common Man’ and his daily cartoon strip ‘You Said It’ in The Times of India since 1951, a lot of Laxman’s work are funny takes on everyday life.

The unpublished works are a collection of doodles taken from a big scrap book that Laxman worked on during his visits to his hometown in Mysore between December 15, 1975 and September 5, 1991 – a period of 16 years. The original doodles are presently with RS Krishnaswamy in Bengaluru, the son of RK Srinivasan, Laxman’s elder brother.

From political references to social satires, the collection opens a window into the rich creative mind of the veteran cartoonist. Sketches ranging from Indira Gandhi during the Emergency, a bunch of politicians standing precariously on a wooden block, a sea of faces, a huge moth stuck in a web spun by a small spider, various facial expressions and funny takes on life with The Common Man, Laxman’s unpublished works showcase the genius of the artist.

Vinayak Pai, a chartered accountant and fan of Laxman’s work attending the inauguration, says getting to see these unpublished works is in itself a privilege. “While it may seem like random thoughts which the great cartoonist has penned down over a period of time, you can see that there is a lot of content and humour in them. They are perspectives into life. You can’t really call them doodles since they are very intellectual and he’s put so much attention to detail. It’s great to see this exhibition organised in this scale. It will be these exhibitions that give more visibility to the cartoonist’s work.”

He goes on to add that seeing these works will trigger a lot of interest to look into his other sketches as well. “A lot of Laxman’s work is available online and in books. Most of his work is contemporary. Laxman never attacked any individual. He tried to bring out a humorous aspect in every situation. We get to know Laxman not just as a cartoonist and caricaturist, but also as an artist with his attention to detail.”

Sudha Mahendran, an artist and student, says, “Most of today’s generation may not know him, but these sketches give me an insight into the strength of humour back then and how they still can make us smile. Witty, quirky and definitely humorous, his work is a great testament for generations to come.”

The exhibition is on till October 1 from 10 am to 5 pm (Mondays closed) at The National Gallery of Modern Art, Palace Road. Call 22342338.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 4:05:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/memoirs-from-the-uncommon-man/article19698740.ece

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