An Open Letter To Mr R K Laxman

Martin D'Souza, Glamsham Editorial
28 Jan, 2015 23:07:26 PM

Dear Mr R K Laxman

Politics and politicians got your undivided attention, but Bollywood and its actors were also close to your heart. Your tryst with the film industry began, I believe, sometime in 1965 when GUIDE, the Waheeda Rehman-Dev Anand starrer was being released. This movie was based on the critically acclaimed novel ‘The guide’ written by your elder brother R K Narayan.

You rubbed shoulders with the stars of yesteryears. Over the years, you did keep in touch with the fraternity. You have sketched Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, Shekhar Kapur, Satyajit Ray, Lata Mangeshkar, Mani Ratnam, among a few.

A few years ago, when you were confined to the bed, you even agreed to meet Akshay Kumar. A fine gesture indeed, considering you were not in the best of health.

However, I must say, unlike politics and politicians Bollywood was spared the blushes of your satire and humour. A cartoon does stick out though, where a car has been stuck on the branches with the caption below reading: “It must have been a movie star going home after dinner.” The Common Man is looking up at the wreck on the tree.

Another cartoon that comes to mind which pertains to Bollywood is that of a housewife watching a beauty pageant with the caption reading: “If she manages to stop smiling for just a moment, we could get an idea of how she looks!”


There’s a footnote to that caricature in the book Laxman Rekhas, A Times of India Presentation, which journalist who have worked there are proud to have a copy of.

I quote from that: “Mother Teresa, the saint of the gutters, has long been appropriated by beauty queens who, on auto pilot, dutifully name her as their greatest living role model (this even after her death) and give lip to the Mother’s vow to “Serve the poorest of the poor.” It is de rigeur for all leggy aspirants to promise to use their title to be Albert Schweitzer, Baba Amte and Martin Luther King all rolled into one. Crown on head, they make a bee line for film city.

You played a good innings. For the better part of it, you kept the world entertained with your witty, sometimes sarcastic but always well-meaning and well-intentioned caricatures with messages.

I dare say they were educative as well and thought-provoking. They were Timely, Topical and Terrific. You gave dignity to satire, something Charlie Hebdo will never understand… nor learn. They shot to notorious fame… I had never even heard of Charlie Hebdo prior to that.

But you, I grew up of a daily dose of humour from you!

Mr R K Laxman, you were a genius in satire. Your messages and drawings never once bordered on the offensive. You always drove your point home with the intent of a baseball player hitting a home run! That is what satire is meant to be, fun, thought-provoking, educative, informative, progressive. Not regressive or repulsive.

That the former then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Mr Morarji Desai tried to muzzle you but did not succeed is another story. You did manage to rile him but his cabinet knew that our Constitution fully protected the freedom of expression!

You had the last laugh!!

You brought laughter into the lives of millions of Indians over many years. I’m sure you will be immortalized in a movie, since biopics seem to be the order of the day today.

Thank you Sir….

You were a genius, an Institution, a remarkable witty brain…

I had the good fortune of working with the same media house as you did. Something in common for the Common Man!

May Your Soul Rest In Peace.

PS: Do send us your humorous impression of heaven!

Martin D’Souza

(This weekly column tries to be as honest as honest can be…)