This grant supports research scholar Gokul T.G. to study and document the comic strip series by acclaimed filmmaker G. Aravindan, that appeared in Marhrubhoomi Azhchaparhipu, a Malayalam literary weekly from 1961 to 1973. Before becoming a filmmaker, Aravindan was the creator of a comic strip series called Cheriya Munushyarum, Valiya Lokavum (Small Men and the Big World). It was a social and political satire that chronicled the adventures of its central characters, Ramu and Guruji.
This grant will enable Gokul to examine the history and impact of this comic strip series on the development of the graphic novel in India, which has evolved into a form that offers multi-layered narratives and varied themes. He will also look at the intricate compositions in Aravindan‘s comic strip series and its correlation to the complex visual narrative structures in his films.
Some of the other crucial aspects that Gokul will explore through his research are a) the relation between the Aravindan’s comic strip and other emerging art forms of the time in Kerala, like the modernist novel and neo-realist cinema; b) the impact of politics on the comic strip; c) the comic strip as a document of society and the everyday lives of common people; and d) the manner in which Cheriyu Manurhyarum, Valiyu Lokavum represented the Malayali Diaspora of the 1960s and 1970s and influenced its identity and self-perception.
A key concern of the study will be how a non-metropolitan comic strip managed to converse with the post-literate society of Kerala of the late 1960s and 1970s. Gokul says, “Comic strips have been traditionally produced from metropolitan centres where their image text has been etleetive in communicating with a largely semi illiterate working class. Aravindan, adapting the format of the medium to suit the sensibilities of a post-literate readership deserves a detailed analysis as does the readership that consmned the strip.” Interviewing the firsthand readers of the comic strip series will be an important aspect of Gokul‘s documentation, During the 12 years that the comic strip series was published, Gokul says, “it split its readers into two equally enthusiastic categories: while many appreciated the strip for its thought provoking, understated humour, there were many readers who derided it for not being funny Aravindan’s strip which disassociatcd ‘comic’ from its mere lexical implications, opened to mixed responses from the reader.”
Along with recording the readers’ reception of the comic strip, Gokul will interview other cartoonists, scholars, historians, family members, and Aravindan’s peers. He hopes that these video interviews will offer insights into the historical, cultural and social significance of the comic strip. This video documentation will be archived on the website of the Centre for Performance Research and Cultural Studies in South Asia (CPRACSIS). CPRACSIS is a non—profit organisation, located in Thrissur, Kerala, where Gokul is the programme director. It is dedicated to research and innovations in visual media, culture and performance. To facilitate future research and enquiries, Gokul will also develop a comprehensive bibliography of critical texts, essays and books on comics and graphic novels, which will be uploaded on the CPRACSIS website and will have open public access.
CPRACSIS is shortly branching out into the publication of academic books and may support the publication of Gokul’s monograph- another outcome of this project. The monograph will be a detailed analytical study of the comic strip series, containing 25-30 annotated strips that mark key moments in the development of the strip’s narrative. Though there have been two anthologies in Malayalam, one in 1979 and one in 1996, documenting about 400 out of the 650 strips that Aravindan produced, Gokul’s monograph will include never before seen strips from the series, copyright for which is with Ramu, Aravindan‘s son. Ramu has agreed to allow Gokul to reproduce these strips in his monograph.
This project will provide an impetus to document the history of comics and graphic novels in India, as also locate Cheriya Manushyarum, Valiya Lokavum’s crucial role in its genesis. It will broaden the scope of comic art scholarship in India, by foregrounding a lesser known but significant comic strip artist like Aravindan.
This description is part of the institutional records created by IFA at the onset of the grant. The project may have changed in due course as reflected in the deliverables from the Grantee.
Grant No : 2009-0-009
Grantee Name : Gokul T Gopalakrishnan
Programme : Arts Research & Documentation
Grant Status : Completed
Start Date : 01-02-2009
End Date : 31-01-2010
Duration : One year
Grant Amount : 3,00,000
Geographical Area of Work : Kerala
Disciplinary Field of Work : Visual Arts
Language : Malayalam