RK Laxman Museum Pune – A tribute to one of the famous cartoonists in India

When reported in plain words, the news appeared cruder and drier
But his drawings added the quirky satire.

His daily humor changed the sombre mood of The Common Man
Adding smiles as their day began.   

When it comes to putting together a list of the most famous cartoonists in India, you will always find RK Laxman included right on top. For decades, his daily cartoon strip has always put a smile on people’s faces – often turning the most dismal moods lighter. RK Laxman cartoons transcend all spheres of life – from India’s popular sport cricket to Bollywood, politics and science. His Indian cartoon characters – especially the quintessential The Common Man cartoon have become legendary. They have been enjoyed both by the older and present generation of India. Now, even after his death, they have been left behind as a legacy for the next generation through the new RK Laxman Museum Pune.

RK Laxman museum - a tribute to one of the famous cartoonists of India
RK Laxman museum – a tribute to one of the famous cartoonists of India

Inaugurated in June 2022, the RK Laxman Museum in Balewadi, Pune celebrates and honors the life of this famous Indian cartoonist. Invited by India Tourism Mumbai for the inauguration of the RK Laxman art gallery, I personally witnessed how insightful these creations were. In fact, I was awed by the exemplary vision depicted by the RK Laxman cartoons that though created decades back, held true today.

This post covers my tour of the RK Laxman museum and shares what I discovered about his life and work. In addition, as always, you will get all the necessary tips to plan your own visit – that is once the museum opens to the general public later this year. Till then, enjoy the virtual tour of the RK Laxman museum.

Who was RK Laxman?

Rasipuram Krishnaswami Laxman – that was his real name. Born in Mysore in 1921, RK Laxman was the youngest one among his 8 siblings consisting of 6 brothers and 2 sisters. One of his brothers is the renowned novelist – RK Narayan, known for the epic book – Malgudi days. RK Laxman took to drawing from a very young age. He is said to have been inspired by the various illustrations that appeared in classic British newspapers and magazines of that era – like The Strand and Tidbits. They say that his first inspiration was Sir David Low, whom he for a long time knew as Sir David Cow as he misread his signature.

RK Laxman's parents
RK Laxman’s parents

With his home walls and doors as his early canvas, he soon graduated to creating caricatures of his teachers. With an intention to pursue this art as his career, he applied to JJ school of applied art in Mumbai – only to be rejected for his “lack of talent required for the school.” Ultimately he graduated from Mysore University, all the while working part-time to create cartoons for Swarajya. He also, illustrated his brother – RK Narayan’s stories that appeared in The Hindu. Eventually, he scored his first job as a political cartoonist for The Free Press Journal in Mumbai. He met and worked with Bal Thackeray as his colleague here.

One of the most visited tourist attractions of India after the Taj Mahal - Mysore Palace

When you talk of RK Laxman’s birthplace – Mysore, there is no missing out on the renowned Mysore Palace.

The Palace went back to much before Independence and was around when RK Laxman was growing up. In fact, his mother was a frequent visitor here, known to be a chess and tennis partner to Her Highness. Naturally, she and the family must have been a regular visitors of this place – which today attracts the 2nd largest number of tourists in India, after the Taj Mahal. Take a virtual tour of this epic palace here.

It was in 1951, when he began his 50 years long innings in The Times of India – creating masterpieces that are still remembered and quoted today. His contributions earned him several prestigious awards like the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan award. RK Laxman’s work continued long after his retirement, with the last one being in 2014, commemorating the successful landing of Mangalyaan on Mars. It was released by ISRO, a day after his death on 26th January 2015 – as a tribute to his outstanding work – all of which is now displayed in the new RK Laxman museum.

The last cartoon of RK Laxman
The last cartoon of RK Laxman

RK Laxman cartoons | The famous works of RK Laxman

RK Laxman's creations on display at the RK Laxman Museum Balewadi
RK Laxman’s creations on display at the RK Laxman Museum Balewadi

RK Laxman’s life work includes 35,000 cartoons. One of the most famous RK Laxman cartoons is called The Common Man who represented the entire nation and their views. In fact, this Indian cartoon character was the hero of his daily comic strip in Times of India called “You said it.” I do know of people who used to actually turn to this strip to know the hot topic of the day, even before reading the headlines. At some point, even I was a little addicted to it and have used a few interesting ones in many of my management presentations.

RK Laxman cartoons - some of the comic strips on display at the art gallery in Pune
RK Laxman cartoons – some of the comic strips on display at the art gallery in Pune

Besides this, the other RK Laxman famous works included the mascot of Asian Paints, popularly called Gattu. Then, there were the sketches that he created for his brother’s book and serial – Malgudi days. RK Laxman cartoons were not all fictitious. His work included caricatures of almost all the popular World leaders, entertainment stars and sports personalities. He has also authored a few books like the Servants of India, Hotel Riviera and The Distorted Mirror.

What to see in RK Laxman museum Pune?

All of the 35,000 Indian cartoon characters created by RK Laxman are what you can expect to see in this unique museum dedicated to this artist. A small section of it showcases the Malgudi days – one of the famous works of his elder brother RK Narayan. Besides this, you have two audio-visual shows that you can attend to know more about this popular personality. All that is detailed in the next few sections.

The Common Man Cartoon

The Common Man Statue at the museum in Pune
The Common Man Statue at the museum in Pune

Needless to say that it is The Common Man who dominates the RK Laxman museum in Pune. It is he who acts as your guide – sharing the most popular anecdotes of his creator – RK Laxman, his early life, how he – the Common Man was born, and what other caricatures RK Laxman created. It is his birth story that I found the most interesting.

The Common Man - one of RK Laxman famous works
The Common Man – one of RK Laxman famous works

Turns out that RK Laxman wanted to create a character that every Indian would identify with. Given the vast ocean of cultures in India, the look of this Indian cartoon character became quite a challenge. Initially, this bespectacled guy clad in the traditional dhoti and kurta just appeared as a mute spectator in various scenarios. It was the scene that led to the interpretation of the state and culture in RK Laxman’s comics. However, as the publishing deadlines mounted pressure, RK Laxman slowly did away with the background, turning this innocuous bystander into the hero that came to be known as The Common Man.

The Common Man with his creator on the panels of the museum building
The Common Man with his creator on the panels of the museum building

The Common Man Cartoon became so iconic that it found a place as a postage stamp in India. Statues of it have been created in various popular spots including the Worli Sea Face in Mumbai. A TV series called Wagle ki Duniya was made based on what might have been the life of this Common Man. All these facts and comic strips are now on display at the RK Museum Pune.

RK Laxman’s life journey

Photographs of the early life of RK Laxman - the famous Indian cartoonist
Photographs of the early life of RK Laxman – the famous Indian cartoonist

One section of the RK Laxman art gallery is dedicated to pictures of his childhood and family. It is here that you will get to see and read about his early life in Mysore. There are several interesting anecdotes like how his mother never erased the caricature of his father that he had drawn on the floor of his house.

Caricatures in the RK Laxman art gallery

RK Laxman caricatures on display
RK Laxman caricatures on display

My personal favorite in this gallery was the caricature section. I loved the quirky way that he has represented the most popular characters of each era and each field. From American presidents to the Bollywood stars, cricket players and even scientists – there are pictures of everyone displayed here. It is amazing to see how we never noticed some minute details of their features that made them comical. Standing there, I wondered what part of my face would have struck a chord with this famous cartoonist in India. Hmmm….it sure would have been interesting to know!

Shows at RK Laxman museum Balewadi

The mini set of Malgudi days which is set to a light and sound show - one of the attractions of RK  Laxman Museum
The mini set of Malgudi days which is set to a light and sound show – one of the attractions of RK Laxman Museum

The two audio-visual shows are run in separate rooms. There are no particular show timings. It is run whenever there is an audience of 5 people or more. The first one is a journey through the life of RK Laxman while the 2nd one is a mini light and sound show conducted on a miniature set of Malgudi days. The Common Man cartoon narrates a few short stories from the classic Malgudi days and at the end of it, even takes you through his own birth. The show ends with a final goodbye to his creator and a warm welcome to his granddaughter who brings alive the next-gen Indian cartoon – The Common Woman.

The Common Man bidding adieu to his creator and welcoming his granddaughter - The common woman
The Common Man bidding adieu to his creator and welcoming his granddaughter – The common woman

The Quirky Crow corner

RK Laxman's favorite birds -crows
RK Laxman’s favorite birds -crows

Somewhere in the corner of this Balewadi RK Laxman museum is an exhibit with different models of crows. While it might seem out of place, there is a context to this common bird. Turns out that these were RK Laxman’s favorite bird and he used to spend quite a bit of time observing them. He thought them to be highly intelligent creatures and used them a lot in his early sketches.

RK Laxman museum is a befitting tribute to one of the greatest Indian cartoonists. Though not a big one in terms of area, it is humungous in terms of insights. Walk through the gallery and spend a little time taking in the amazing insights this man poured into his creations. It will not be a wonder if you walk out of the museum saying that – “What he said back then, is still so relevant.

Well, that is it in terms of my virtual tour of the RK Laxman museum in Pune. Do remember to pin this post up – especially if you are headed to Pune.

Common FAQs about RK Laxman museum

Which are the various places in which RK Laxman cartoons are used?

The most popular RK Laxman cartoons appeared in The Times of India as The Common Man and You said it. Besides these, RK Laxman in his early days, contributed to The Free Press journal of India, The Hindu and Swatantra. Some of the RK Laxman cartoons like Gattu became the mascot of popular brands.

Where is the Statue of The common man?

The statue of The Common Man is found at the Worli Sea face in Mumbai as well as the Symbiosis college in Pune. Besides this, the new RK Laxman museum has one greeting your right at its entrance.

What is the best way to reach the RK Laxman museum?

RK Laxman museum is located in Balewadi, specifically Laxman Nagar. You can either hire a cab or opt for buses that go to Balewadi in Pune to get to this museum.

Pune as a city, is well connected by road, rail and air. It has its own international airport , with direct flights to many parts of the world.

What are the RK Laxman museum timings?

At the moment, the museum has not yet been opened for public and the timings have not been fixed. It will be shortly communicated.

What are the entrance fees for RK Laxman museum?

The museum is yet to be opened for general public and the entrance fees have not yet been established.

Is the RK Laxman museum open?

While the RK Laxman museum has been officially inaugurated, it is still not opened for general public. It is expected to open sometime in July 2022.

Before you go, pin this

RK Laxman museum
RK Laxman museum balewadi
Pune RK Laxman art gallery

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