'We would love a movie on his work'

Laxman family and friends await new TV serial Laxman ki Duniya; stresses on correct depiction of work

The generation that remembers the brilliant Anjan Srivastava and his wife worrying about common problems in a television serial called, Wagle Ki Duniya and still smiles to itself as it reminisces about the episodes, has reason to cheer. Wagle ki Duniya was based on the legendary (he actually deserves the honour of being called a legend, in a world where such words are conferred on people too easily) cartoonist, R K Laxman's work.

Explaining it all: Nandu Gupta makes his point Pics/Santosh Nagwekar

Now, the small screen is ready to give you some living room laughs with yet another serial called, R K Laxman Ki Duniya. This one too is based on R K Laxman's works and is slated for 150 episodes of 25-minutes each. It will be aired on SAB TV and begins on November 28 to be aired in the 9.30 pm slot. R K Laxman ki Duniya aims to bring back the incredible lightness of being able to laugh at oneself, Laxman-style. It tries to recap his brand of humour on to screen - wry, dry, witty and satirical, bringing intelligent, everyday, mirth to a middle-class experience.  

At a press conference on Monday afternoon in Worli, his daughter-in-law Usha Laxman encapsulated the role the family has played in shaping the serial and R K Laxman's thoughts on the serial. Laxman, who incidentally celebrated his 90th birthday, recently, was not at the press conference. He is Pune-based. He suffered a second stroke last year and since then, he has lost the power of speech. "Dad (Laxman) communicates through writing and actions," said Usha, who said his hand did not work as well, it is not as stable so his lines were a little shaky, "Though he continues to sketch for a few hours just for himself." When Laxman suffered his second stroke, he was airlifted from Pune to Mumbai and treated at the Breach Candy Hospital.

Correct spirit: Usha Laxman (r) and Pramila Gupta, family friend of
the Laxman family at the press conference
Family friend of the Laxman family, Nandu Gupta, Chairman and Managing Director (MD) of Core Chemicals added, "Earlier, Laxman was like a tiger, post his illness, he is still a tiger but like a tiger in a cage." Gupta remembers that at the function to celebrate his birthday, Laxman had a row of mikes in front of him. "He tapped one of those mikes, as if to ask, what would I do with this?" Gupta says that R K Laxman is like a, "father figure" for him and since he has been a friend of the Laxman family for 30 years, "I do advise Laxman in certain legal avenues. Here, for instance, though we all are very happy with the final, commercial agreement for the current TV serial, I had to work towards the monetary side of the agreement. Laxman, like most creative persons has little interest or inclination in the commercial side."

The family claims that initially, there were plans to air 250 episodes of R K Laxman ki Duniya. "Yet, we too suggested that it be restricted to 150 as we did not want his work to be diluted or dissolved in any way." Television is not a new medium for the pocket cartoons. Earlier, there was Wagle ki Duniya, made under Durga Khote Productions, where, "Dad (R K Laxman) was fully involved in the process then, it was created and conceived by dad," says Usha. "This time, though, it is different as dad is not on hand for these episodes. I used to watch dad during Wagle Ki Duniya and have learnt something from that experience, so I will use that when I am on the sets of R K Laxman ki Duniya, sporadically at least," said Usha, who, incidentally, works for a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called Muktangan.

To be together is terrific: R K Laxman with family while on a visit to
Mumbai last year

Dharmesh Mehta, who is doing the R K Laxman ki Duniya serial, is also responsible for Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah. "Just like in Oolta Chashmah, the action takes place in a colony like housing society, here too, the setting is in a colony-like ambience. It has a typical, middle-class, common man feel to it," says Usha adding that, "The episodes for this serial are being shot in Naigaon (beyond Bhayandar)."

Usha says that careful and discerning as they are about Laxman's work not being distorted and makers of the serial keeping the 'spirit' of his cartooning intact, they all welcome the new medium. "This is one way of keeping his work alive, especially for the young generation. Though, print was his medium, we understand that in an age of faster communication and cutting edge technology new avenues are the way to bring his work to the people," said Usha and Gupta. Ever since Laxman had stopped cartooning, The Times, where his pocket cartoon was immortalised, used to publish works from his archives. Now, that too has stopped, so his supporters understand the need of different visual mediums to keep Laxman's work on the radar.

Going on air: The cast for the serial poses for a common picture

His work has already found a platform on stage. Artiste Ajit Kelkar has breathed life into his work on stage as he has performed a number of shows in India and outside too on the work of R K Laxman. "Theatre is good representation too," says Usha. Now that the curtains have already gone up on R K Laxman's work theatre wise and small screen is once again flickering to life with stories based on his cartoons, a next, natural progressive step would be celluloid.

"We are open to the idea of a movie on his work and we already have a production house showing interest in adapting his work into a movie," says the family. "We would be happy if that happens -- it would signify a step ahead as then his work would be available in all creative mediums." Like they say, if a picture can speak a thousand words, imagine what an entire movie could say -- loads about the Common Man, created by an uncommon talent.

90 candles on his cake!
R K Laxman marked his 90th birthday with a celebration at his home in Aundh, Pune on October 24. It was a birthday with a difference, simply because he never celebrates his birthday! He celebrates birthdays of other family members but not his own. His daughter-in-law, Usha took a special gift for R K Laxman, a booklet of all the cards he has made and gifted his son (her husband) and his granddaughter (her daughter). The organiser Kailash Bhingare had lit up the house with 90 traditional lamps, aakash kandeels as they are called. There were about 10 to 12 cartoonists who came to the house and made sketches of R K Laxman, presenting these as gifts to the cartoonist. Some of these caricaturists and cartoonists did their sketches at home and the others sketched R K Laxman in front of the cartoonist himself and presented him their drawings.

>> R K Laxman ki Duniya will begin on November 28.
>> It will be aired on SAB TV channel.
>> It has 150 episodes, all in Hindi.
>> The episodes would be of 25-minute duration.
>> They would be aired from Monday-Friday at 9.30 pm.

The Common Man is speaking out

Ajit Kelkar, theatre artiste has brought R K Laxman's Common Man to theatre audiences for years now. Kelkar clarifies, "It is not me who has brought the Common Man to people, but the people who have 'come' to the Common Man. In theatre, people have to come for your shows. I have taken written approval from R K Laxman for a theatrical rendition of R K Laxman's works. Mine is a one-man show, and I have completed 120 shows already, where I act from R K Laxman's works and his autobiography. I have a script with me. You could say that these shows from his work, encapsulate the political history of India, post-Independence." Though the Common Man's problems in India may be vastly different from other common men across the world, the beauty of Laxman's works is his universality. Like all great creative work, his cartoons find a pulse in common human experience, though the context may be different. This is why Kelkar has performed abroad too, in the USA.

Kelkar says he got the nod of approval from Laxman who has sat through five of his shows, "Including my landmark 50th and 100th shows. He had even come in to see a show while in ill-health, that was very touching." Kelkar says Laxman had also once accompanied him to Ahmedabad for a show. Kelkar remembers with a laugh, "the press had once asked Laxman, post my show about what he thought of the common Man on stage. He told them, it was good but the Common Man never talks. His Common Man is silent. That was typical R K Laxman, really." Kelkar says different medium will keep Laxman's work alive, "I know many people have approached him to adapt his work but he does not give permission easily." Yet, Kelkar thinks that more than television or screen, it is real life events that will give a new lease of life to the Common Man. "Today, on the ground, thanks to movements like Anna Hazare's the common man is speaking out. He is no longer a despairing, silent spectator. It is events like these that will keep The Common Man alive." Today, the Common Man talks, even though his creator, R K Laxman, who has lost his speech because of a stroke, is silent.        

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's message

A caricature of the PM by R K Laxman

Dear Mrs. Laxman,
The Prime Minister sends his congratulations to Producer-Director, Mr. Dharmesh Mehta for conceiving and producing a television serial onunmatchable R.K. Laxman. He hopes that just as R.K. Laxman brought a cheer to his readers everyday year after year, the serial will enable the new generation of viewers to revisit the genius of this legendary cartoonist.

With best wishes,

(Harish Khare)
Media Advisor to PM

Wagle Ki Duniya

Wagle Ki Duniya (Wagle's World) (1988-90) was a hugely popular comedy TV series on Doordarshan. It made the Wagle surname a household name. The serial was an adaptation of R K Laxman's The Common Man cartoon series. Anjan Srivastav performed the lead role part of Mr. Wagle or Janardan Wagle, a bumbling sales clerk in a multinational and the role of Mrs. Radhika Wagle was played by Bharti Achrekar. After its success, the series was later revived as Wagle Ki Nayi Duniya (The New World of Wagle). The series was produced by Durga Khote Productions, and had music by Vanraj Bhatia.

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