The Maharashtra government plans to erect a befitting memorial to the legendary cartoonist and creator of ‘The Common Man’, R.K. Laxman, on the campus of the Sir J.J. School of Arts in Mumbai, a family member said.
Ironically, this is the same institution which had rejected admission of the young Laxman in the late 1930s as his “drawings failed to conform to the high expectations” of the hallowed institution!
“Yes… with support of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Education Minister Vinod Tawde, the Maharashtra government has finalised the spot inside the Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art campus. It will be in a shaded location near the bungalow of another legend, the renowned writer and Nobel laureate, Rudyard Kipling,” Laxman’s daughter-in-law Usha Srinivas Laxman said.
“The memorial should not be just limited to a statue which nobody will notice…; plus it should be accessible to people from all over India and the world,” Usha said, affording a glimpse of her concept on the proposed monument.
She had already submitted her concept of the memorial which would be in the form of a full-fledged art museum encompassing the works of Laxman, besides offering opportunities for study or research to students, art lovers, thereby making it a world-class global tourist attraction.
“This could form the basis for all such similar memorials to Laxman in the country later…; It is in the last stages of being finalised and we hope the government will make the announcement at an appropriate time,” Usha added.
This would fulfil son Srinivas’ request last February to have a memorial for Laxman in Mumbai, which currently only has a statue of ‘The Common Man’ in Worli.
After all, though he was born in Karnataka, Mumbai was the place where he lived, worked and became a legend, starting with freelance contributions to publications like ‘Swarajya’ and ‘Swatantra’, and later the ‘The Hindu’ to accompany his brother R.K. Narayan’s famous short stories.
Laxman worked with the now defunct ‘Blitz’, then with the top newspaper of that era, ‘The Free Press Journal’ as a staff cartoonist, becoming a colleague of a lanky soft-spoken gent, Bal Thackeray, who later became a commanding political force in Maharashtra.
They remained dear friends for over 60 years till Thackeray’s death on 17 November 2012.
After his stint with FPJ, Laxman joined ‘The Times of India’, which proved to be the turning point in his career and made him a living legend.
“It was the vibrant and never-say-die spirit of the ordinary Mumbaikar that inspired the image of Laxman’s bespectacled creation – The Common Man. Always silent with a confused and bewildered expression at the antics of politicians, generally in his trademark checked-shirt with dhoti, and a tuft of hair clinging to the sides of his worry-marked pate,” Srinivas Laxman said of his father.
During lunch breaks, or on lean working days, Laxman and other senior editors of ToI would go for walks in the old, bustling Dalal Street (before the 29-storied BSE Building came up in 1980), Strand Book Stall, Jehangir Art Gallery, the Colaba Causeway, Flora Fountain, and other parts which comprised the central business district of Mumbai, Srinivas said, explaining how his father got inspired for his works which became historic creations.
At times, he would go and sit inside the campus of Sir J.J. School, watching the people and young artists there, and get inspiration for his own artistic masterpieces, Usha added.
The memorial was announced by Fadnavis after Laxman’s funeral in Pune, but the location was not specified, but now it is clear it will be inside the Sir J.J. School premises – strategically located close to the areas he lived, worked and immortalised over the years through his caricatures.
Kicking off the ‘Laxman Season’ virtually on his 94th birth anniversary, the Chief minister will inaugurate a website, www.rklaxman.com on Saturday afternoon here.
It has been conceptualised, designed and executed by Laxman’s doting grand-daughter Rimanika and Tejas Taori, under the overall guidance of Usha Srinivas Laxman.
Besides, Usha added that Pune is also making plans for a memorial to Laxman, the details of which would be known subsequently.