I was at work when I received a text that said ‘R K Laxman no more’. The news gave me a sudden chill that ran through my spinal cord and I immediately went online to confirm the news, which was indeed true. R K Laxman an acclaimed Indian cartoonist, sketch artist and illustrator had passed away at the age of 94. His work has inspired so many artists like me.
I remember first noticing his work in ‘Malgudi days’, an Indian television series telecasted on Doordarshan back in 1986. It was based on the stories written by notable writer R K Narayan (brother of R K Laxman). Each episode that ran for 30 minutes, unfolded a story of simple people of Malgudi, a fictional town in Karnataka (south of India), of the British-India period, in a very simplistic and humane manner. Out of all the stories, my favourite has been ‘Swami and Friends’ which had eight episodes. It revolved around everyday life of a 10 year old boy Swami and his pals.
As the title song for ‘Malgudi days‘ played, the illustrations made by R K Laxman came up one by one on the TV screen as a slide show, like the story boards depicting the stories and characters in each episode.
I must have been 7-8 years old then and I used to have that urge to pause the song just so that I could study each and every detail of his sketches. Though well detailed they had a strange kind of simplicity and uniqueness that one could identify with his style.
Later I started to recognise his cartoons of ‘A Common Man’ in daily comic strips in ‘You said it’ that featured in the national newspaper ‘Times of India’ and also ‘Gattu’ the mascot for Asian paints amongst so many of his other works.
In my after school art classes we used to practice memory drawings, and I can now see how my drawing and story telling has been influenced by his sketches of ‘Malgudi Days’.
I am not exactly sure whether it was the Carnatic music score or the art direction by Shankar Nag, or the illustrations of R K Laxman that left such a strong impact on me.
With R K Laxman gone it is indeed an end of an era. But he has left an immense body of work which will continue to inspire me and so many generations to come.
Sometime back, I made a series of sketches for a project that involved designing characters for a board game. I worked on a concept of ‘Funky Pirates’ and I believe the sketches of R K Laxman were always on my mind while visualizing each of those characters.
Seen below are my sketches for the story boards for ‘Funky Pirates’.
Click the link below to the watch ‘Malgudi Days’ online.
And here’s the link to one of the episodes of ‘Swami and Friends’. All the episodes are available to view on youtube.