The National Gallery of Modern Art is host to a unique exhibition of cartoons numbering 96, by master cartoonist, the late Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Laxman (24 October 1921 to 26 January 2015) more popularly known as RK Laxman.
These cartoons are different from his usual cartoons, the ones most of us are familiar with, because they were created by Laxman at leisure when he was at his creative best. The works are a mixture of completed works and doodles. And they provide a fascinating insight to his creative prowess.
The exhibition was inaugurated by K Jairaj, Former Additional Secretary, Government of Karnataka, on 13 September 2017. During his address, Jairaj spoke of his meeting with Laxman and mentioned that he “drew without malice. His cartoons were always contemporary and vivid in the minds of the public”. Dr Sathyabhama Badhreenath, Director of NGMA, who also spoke on the occasion referred to Laxman’s works as stress busters.
Laxman was never in favour of displaying his doodles. The cartoons on display at NGMA have already been exhibited at the Indian Institute of Cartoonists.
VG Narendra of the Indian Institute of Cartoonists spoke at length about his long association with the cartoonist which dated back to the 1970s. He spoke of a memorable day in Bangalore when RK Laxman, Mario Miranda and Abu Abraham, all of them great cartoonists, together graced an event. Speaking about the current exhibition, Narendra said that the NGMA is an apt place to display the cartoons thanks to its sprawling space.
Among those present on the occasion was GS Krishnan, a proud owner of the largest collection of Laxman’s cartoons. Krishnan began collecting Laxman’s cartoons from a very young age. He first met Laxman in 2009 and showed him his collection. Laxman was very happy and rewarded GSK with his book ‘Laxman Rekha’.
On display are cartoons of a temple, birds, bicycles and planes. A very poignant nevertheless amusing one showing environmental destruction was my favourite. It has a group of people taking shelter from rain and floods on the stump of a felled tree with one umbrella over their heads. The story would have been different if the tree had not been felled.
There is one of a funny-looking crook with what seems to be a bundle of looted cash. While all the cartoons have Laxman’s unmistakable humour, there are many which stand out like that of a gigantic frog on whose back are a cluster of apartment complexes (perhaps a reference to the shaky foundations of these buildings), a king enjoying a lighter moment with his queen, the common man as William Tell, a man on a commode, a fight between two baddies, ghosts, a foot on an egg, the artist himself in a whirlpool, faces in the crowd, the artist as a judge (a take on the Shah commission), a politician indulging in a alcoholic drink adorned with pictures of nude women, Jagjivan Ram as a crocodile.
There’s a humorous one of the artist’s famous writer brother RK Narayan startled at the dead of the night by a ghost.
The exhibition is a must-visit for one and all. I really doubt there is anyone who is not a fan of RK Laxman, the God of Cartooning.
The exhibition is on till the 1st of October.