Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Common Man Is Everywhere

I watched the 100th show of the 'R.K. Laxman's The Common Man', a one-man play based on the life and times of The Common Man; quite literally the mascot and the representative of India's middle class man. Ajit Kelkar plays the part of the common man. Through audio-visual slides that show select Laxman's cartoons of the Common Man, Kelkar chronicles the journey of Laxman right from the time he started and gave birth to the common man all the way through various socio-political changes the common man has seen.

His daily cartoons on one tiny corner on the front page were as looked after- or probably more- than the stories.  He is India's best known and widely respected cartoonist and has aptly chronicled- apart from Behram Contractor (Busybee; The Afternoon's founding editor)- the life and times of the Indian mass through changing times, political and economical, in India as seen through the eyes of the common man; his chief protagonist who is present in many moments that define India. It's political satire at its best; perhaps matching or even better than Yes, Minister; the classic British comedy. Laxman spoke through his cartoons that appeared on the front page of the TOI for years and years and Busybee wrote his legendary column 'Round and About'.

Coming back to the play, it was a good play. The performance was great and the message was as simple as Laxman's depiction of the Common Man. The idea to tickle our funny bone and it is also to provoke the society to not be mute spectators but to stand up and be heard. I loved the concept of the play, but I got this weird feeling towards the end that all the political bashing and lessons and preachings on the way India's bureaucracy works, is nothing new. Been there, done that. As glad as I was to have watched an original concept, I came out of the theater on a Saturday evening feeling like I have watched a rerun.

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