Most of us will have this habit of randomly checking the comic section while visiting a book stall. As adults, we may not purchase a book, but flipping through its pages and getting glimpses of our favourite characters like Suppandi, Shikari Shambhu, Dakini, Kuttoosan, Luttappi Soothran and Sheru and Magic Malu would make us nostalgic and happy. It is because these characters have played a crucial role in moulding our imagination. They have been enthralling us for a long time, almost in the same pattern. Looks like it is time to bring some changes to these characters — like the twist that Tinkle brought to its famous character Mantri from the Tantri the Mantri series. They have finally made Mantri, who has been plotting to kill King Hooja for the past 35 years to take over the throne, the king of Hijli. Also, lately, Balarama introduced Dinkini, a new character, in Mayavi. At this juncture, we ask youngsters about their favourite characters and the changes they want to see in them.
“Shikari Shambhu and Suppandi are my favourite characters,” says Ajith Kumar, an advertising professional from Kochi. However, for Nikhil Wilson, Spiderman and Dakini and Kuttoosan are his favourites. “I was fascinated by Spiderman’s web-slinging action,” he says.
Do they want to see any change in them? Nikhil says, “In Spiderman’s case, I don’t want to see much change. His story has already got different dimensions. However, at least once, I would like to watch Tom eating Jerry and Kuttoosan capturing Mayavi,” he chuckles.
According to Ajith, it may not be a good idea to completely alter a character. “Timely changes can be brought to the story settings,” he opines. “For instance, imagine democracy comes to Mantri’s kingdom. It would be interesting to see the kind of crises they would face and the way Mantri tackles them. Also, they can include modern elements like gadgets, TikTok, streaming services and internet to make the plot timely. Mantri may even open accounts on social media,” he says.
Writer Sree Parvathy, who is so glad to see the change in Tantri the Mantri, says she yearns to see such innovations in a few other series, too. “I would like to see a few other characters, who have been following a pattern, to change. Of all efforts, the saddest was to watch that of Kuttoosan and Dakini. They should be able to catch Mayavi without anyone’s help and be able to trap him in such a way that he gets no way to escape. If Luttappi gets sad seeing this, let him quarrel with them and go to Raju and Radha. After watching Shambhu’s moustache for all these time, I would like to see his face. Shambhu should go out for hunting keeping his hat straight on head, revealing his face. At least now, Lottulodukku and Gulgulumalu should be awarded with the Nobel Prize. Not just that, their inventions should be taken seriously and brought out as a picture story. Finally, let Jumban be blessed with a mind to feed Thumban his tummy full,” she observes.
What Anjitha Sabu, a college student, wants to witness is Sheru becoming a genius. “It is always Soothran who is intelligent, and Sheru a dimwit. Sheru should be given at least one chance to be intelligent,” she says.
In Malayalam, a lot of changes have been brought to the costumes. How much that helps? Cartoonman Badusha cites the instance of Poocha Police series that appeared in Malarvadi. “The first getup of Poocha Police was not a success. It was old-fashioned. Then, they changed it and it clicked. So, making changes according to the taste of the generation can be helpful,” he says.
But, it is not easy to introduce changes that are sustainable, feels Venu Variath, who has been in the field of children’s comics for a long time. “Change in costumes alone won’t help. A character has some characteristics. Costume is secondary,” he says. “What the character is capable of matters the most. It should pique readers’ interest,” says Venu, who created Magic Malu and Great Grandpa. “Creating a character and keeping it going for a long time is a difficult task, especially in this digital era. How long will we tell the stories of jungle?” he asks.
Choosing a character is also important, he feels. “When we decided to introduce a rabbit (Magic Malu), we had two problems. One, rabbit cannot climb a tree. Then, we thought of giving power to its cap like Kapeesh’s tail or Mayavi’s stick, but then its long ears posed a problem. So, it is a big task to develop a character,” he says.
And he goes on to say that only if we bring new dimension or new characters, the industry would thrive. Let’s hope new ‘powerful’ characters will make an entrance soon.