RK Laxman: Cartoonist whose 'Common Man' shone a light on the absurdities of Indian politics for more than half a century

The Common Man, a meek spectator to the shenanigans of  corrupt bureaucrats, spawned a television sitcom that ran for 200 episodes

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The Independent Online

RK Laxman was an acclaimed Indian cartoonist, creator of the innocuous character the Common Man, who held up a mirror to the absurdity and stupidity of Indian politicians. His almost daily "Common Man" cartoon was an insightful commentary on Indian society and politics that ran in the Times of India newspaper for more than five decades.

He began his career at a number of small newspapers in Mumbai before joining the Times in 1950. Millions of Indians looked forward to his daily "You Said It" cartoon for its pithy observations.

He was born in 1924, the youngest of six sons of a headmaster, in the southern town of Mysore, and was inspired by his childhood reading of magazine such as Punch, Strand and Tit-Bits., as well as the work of David Low. Before taking up cartooning, he illustrated the novels of his brother, the well-known Indian novelist, RK Narayan.

The Common Man, a meek spectator to the shenanigans of Indian legislators and corrupt bureaucrats, was so popular that it spawned a television sitcom that ran for 200 episodes.When Laxman began to draw cartoons in The Times of India, he tried to represent the country's wildly divergent states and cultures. Rushing to meet deadlines, he began to draw fewer and fewer background characters, until finally he found only one remaining – the Common Man. "Clad in a dhoti and a plaid jacket, the puzzled Common Man is no dupe," wrote the anthropologist Ritu Gairola Khanduri. "His sharp observations miss no detail of the political circus."

Rasipuram Krishnaswami Laxman, cartoonist and illustrator: born Mysore, India 24 October 1921; married Kumari Kamala; died Pune 26 January 2015.