Kottayam native Anoop Velayaudhan’s digital artwork mixing comics from Mayavi and Mollywood stars tickle ribs
The fantastic world of Mayavi, the kind-hearted wand-wielding leprechaun, is familiar to anyone who grew up in the eponymous comic book series that continues to appear in children’s magazine in Malayalam. Balarama. In the imagination of Bengaluru-based artist Anoop Velayaudhan, characters from popular comics nostalgically assume funny new avatars as beloved figures of Malayalam cinema.
Anoop says he has strived to give the characters a “modern twist” through their recreation as digital paintings. “I had the idea to do Mayavi artwork as an anti-stress last December. I have been doing work from home due to the pandemic which has resulted in more hours of work. Plus, I don’t really go out on weekends now and channel that extra time and energy to stay creatively engaged, ”says Anoop, whose hometown is Kottayam in Kerala.
What fueled his imagination was the chance discovery of an old Mayavi comic online. “I myself am a fan of the Mayavi comics. Until I was about 15, I read them voraciously in Balarama. This time it was like a blast from the past and I imagined giving a digital tone to his original style of line art. The idea of incorporating movie personalities came later, ”he says.
According to the original story arc, Mayavi is indebted to younger human siblings Raju and Radha for her release. Even though a host of dark wizards and demons plot to outsmart him, the boy-faced Mayavi is always on duty to lend a hand to children when needed.
Anoop, who works as a creative manager at an e-commerce company, first tried an actual reproduction of the villainous old wizard Kuttusan, but he was not satisfied with it. “That’s when I came across a meme featuring actor Bijukuttan and it reminded me of the character of Luttapi (a goofy imp with black horns and a red body who flies on his magic spear ) in the series. It made me look for similar weird resemblances with Malayalam actors, ”explains the self-taught artist, adding that he has tried to strike a balance between resemblance, identifiability and humor.
He then avidly watched clippings from Mollywood movies, mostly from the ’80s and’ 90s, on YouTube and made a list of possible faces for his cartoons. For Kuttusan, he first performed with actors Sunil Sukhada, the late Sasi Kalinga and Mamukkoya, eventually opting for the latter. “The witch Dakini (Kuttusan’s mate) was an easy choice: I couldn’t think of anyone but [the late]actor Philomina, ”he explains.
Actors Shammi Thilakan and Ramesh Pisharody became wanted criminals Vikraman and Muthu, who often work as assistants to Kuttusan, while Bijukuttan’s face was used for Luttapi. Actor-screenwriter Chemban Vinod Jose appears as dark pixie Puttalu (Luttapi’s uncle), while sinister scientists Lottulodukku and Gulgulumal – known for their expertise in inventing destructive weapons – are hosted by comedians Kottayam Pradeep and Salim Kumar, respectively.
The 42-year-old says he’s kept his Mayavi series interactive, often sharing the artwork with family and friends and on social media for feedback before starting work on a new character. After going through the answers, Anoop chose actors Kalidas Jayaram and Nazriya Nazim Fahadh to play Raju and Radha for their “childish faces”. But who would take perhaps the show’s most standout character, Mayavi?
“That was of course the million dollar question and I had Kunchacko Boban, Fahadh Fasil and Tovino Thomas in mind. It was a tough decision and I ultimately thought Tovino would be the best choice for his boyish charm. Plus, he’s got a superhero movie coming up, Minnal Murali, and I thought that would give some appeal to the popular imagination, ”says Anoop.
Anoop Velayudhan’s works can be seen on Instagram @artofanoop