We are pretty much a generation that has a stack of children’s comics that is taller than ourselves. As we grew so did this pile of love that has been our best friend throughout our school lives. Celebrated were those Fridays when we used to have an additional ‘shushkaanti’ because Fridays meant not just the end of a week but also signified the arrival of our weekly comic. Yes! We are indeed talking about those little Malayalam comic books and comic book characters that made our Fridays even more ‘Friyay’ (let’s just ignore Saturday classes here!). Balarama, Balabhumi, Poombaata, Balamangalam – which one was your favourite?
Nowadays, all we talk about is how relatable it is to watch FRIENDS, how thrilling it is to watch ‘Money Heist’, etc. Guess who’s taking a back seat here? Our very own first impression of a digital print? The very reason we started loving make-believe characters and considering them as one amongst us has to do with the dopehead of a Sheru, a little magic from Mayavi and so much more. So dear co-passengers, buckle up as we ride through the lives of some of the cartoons and comic book characters we fell in love with and most importantly through the pages that probably taught us how to read Malayalam!
Mayavi and Luttappi
There is no childhood without secretly wishing to have an ‘Om Hreem Kuttichaatha’ moment. Growing up with Mayavi, we have also seen the ‘sadaacharam’ wave that came over the editor one day which forced him to dress up our little, semi-nude kuttichaathan into God knows what – a man version of nighties? We can’t stress enough on that black underwear Luttappi had, that stood the test of time. As you grew up, did you transition to liking Luttappi more than Mayavi? Luttapi was already tortured quite a lot by his dark wizard owners – Dakini and Kuttoosan – and add to it, those pesky children! Raju and Radha were cute kids but why did they have to put the ‘paata’ in Luttappi’s ‘kanji’ every damn time?! Beats us!
Luttapi’s kuntham was more attractive than Mayavi’s magic ‘vadi’. Nothing much can be done with that wand because we don’t know the mumbo-jumbos to make magic happen. Ha! But the kuntham? Imagine riding leisurely over a traffic jam and poking it down the throats of people spewing venom? Anthassu!
Soothran and Sheru
If Dasan and Vijayan were the best duo on-screen, Soothran and Sheru would be their off-screen counterparts. The situations this tiger-fox duo would get into are beyond hilarious. Even when Soothran diligently lets Sheru lift the heavier side of every plan, Sheru was always there to pick Soothran’s ass from every catastrophic downfall. This was why as kids every ‘Save the Tiger’ campaign was a ‘Save Sheru’ moment for us!
It’s not just about Soothran and Sheru. This comic had a whole rally of characters that left us in fits of laughter. Remember Ajagajan Aadu – the equivalent of a Shashi Tharoor; as in he perhaps spoke Malayalam like English? And Karinaakkan Vavvaal, Moonga Vaidyar, Karinjunni? The God of all Gods – Kaattumuthappan – who was as insane as his believers? And Kadiyan Simham and his nitwit son? Kadiyan always summoned Soothran to skill up his son so that he can become the next Kadiyan when he grows up. Sniff sniff! That ‘karinja manam’ of nepotism in the air? Those were the days!
Apart from Soothran-Sheru, there were also epic duos like Vikru-Durbalan, Akku-Ikku, Eliyan-Puliyan, etc. that wooed us not just with their stories but also their cuteness which was at a different level altogether.
Meesha Marjaran- The one and only H(Z)ero
Who needs Hrithik Roshan on a bike when we can have Meesha in an autorickshaw – the ultimate Malayali hero! Meesha-Elumban comics were so loved by kids that the publication house even released comic books that featured a collection of their stories alone as special editions! The ‘aashaane’ vili inspired by Elumban was popular even in classrooms and tuition centres. The characters in supporting roles like Naaykumar and Maathappan Muthalaali also hold a special place in our hearts. One after the other, their foiled attempts to become ‘koodeeshwarans’ and their relentless efforts at trying to play smart made our days lighter.
It’s alright if you had missed out on the trending theft case or smuggling case of the week.
The investigation duo Jamban and Thumban would have got them covered! When we look back at the stories now, the clever incorporation of social issues awes us. The way ‘kozhikaal’ would help Thumban get his ‘thumbu’ was maybe a little over the top, and even though at times we felt that the ‘yeeyeehaa’ moment was a little overdone, we would always come back to this story after we were done with all our favourites. After all, weren’t they part of the family too?
That ‘nallavanaaya unni’ look deceived us initially, but the combination of innocence and naughtiness made Kunjoos one of our personal favourites. And since it had those one-page scripts, it was always read in the first scan.
While the stories revolved around the innocent questions and answers in the life of a little boy, we wonder if this was when we subconsciously started believing that making mistakes or asking silly questions were the traits of a ‘mandan/mandi’. Just being curious.
Shikari Shanku was a Malayalified version of the Tinkle fame Shikari Shambu. Heard of the old Malayalam idiom ‘Chakka veenu muyal chathu’ which emphasizes that you can’t get lucky all the time? Ironically, this man’s whole life was in defiance to this. The ways in which he would catch a tiger who escaped from the zoo or nab convicts just by sheer luck would bring about an unexpected guffaw most of the time.
Apart from all the lighthearted stories of these comics, there are a few which also keep us thinking. One such example is ‘Mrigaadiipathyam vannaal’ or ‘Silent vaalan’ where the script talked about a parallel universe where animals switched placed with humans. The imaginative ways in which the characters are shown to deal with our day-to-day issues create a wave of doubt as to whether we are doing the right thing.
It’s not just about the comic books and their stories that kept us waiting for Fridays. Most often the small gifts that came along also kept us on our toes. Those little character erasers, sports cards, schoolbook labels, tattoos, project posters, masks, etc. created a war among siblings as to who keeps the particular Mayavi tattoo or the Sootran featured label! Perhaps one of the many reasons only children loved being an only child!
As time swept us off our feet and landed us into the world of movies, dramas, and web series we gradually forgot these little people in our lives who made our childhood awesome and full of colour. Do you remember where your stack of comics is? Why don’t you give some of them a read this week? It’s sure to take you miles back into the days of curiosity colours!