Kottayam native Anoop Velayaudhan’s digital artworks blending Mayavi comics and Mollywood stars tickle ribs
The fantasy world of the wand-wielding, good-hearted imp Mayavi is familiar to anyone who grew up on the eponymous comics series which continues to appear in the Malayalam language children’s magazine Balarama. In Bengaluru-based artist Anoop Velayaudhan’s imagination, the characters in the popular comics nostalgically assume new droll avatars as beloved Malayalam film personalities.
Anoop says he endeavoured to lend “a modern touch” to the characters through their re-creation as digital paintings. “I struck upon the idea of doing Mayavi artworks as a stressbuster last December. I have been doing Work from Home due to the pandemic, which has translated to more work hours. Also, I don’t really step out during the weekends now and channel that extra time and energy to stay creatively engaged,” says Anoop, whose hometown is Kottayam in Kerala.
What fed his imagination was the chance discovery of an old comic strip of Mayavi online. “I myself am a fan of the Mayavi comics. Until I was 15 or so, I used to voraciously read them in Balarama. This time, it was like a blast from the past and I imagined lending a digital tone to its original style of line drawings. The idea of incorporating movie personalities came later,” he says.
According to the original story arc, Mayavi is indebted to the young human siblings Raju and Radha for his liberation. Even as a host of dark wizards and demons plot to outwit him, the boyish-faced Mayavi is ever at service to lend a helping hand to the kids when in need.
Anoop, who works as a creative head with an e-commerce firm, first tried an actual reproduction of the aged, villainous wizard Kuttusan, but he was not happy with it. “That is when I came across a meme featuring actor Bijukuttan and it reminded me of the character Luttapi (a black-horned, red-bodied bumbling imp who flies on his magical spear) in the series. This prompted me to look for similar uncanny resemblances with Malayalam actors,” says the self-taught artist, adding that he tried to strike a balance of resemblance, identifiability and humour.
He then avidly watched clippings of Mollywood movies, chiefly from the ‘80s and ‘90s, on YouTube and made a shortlist of possible faces for his caricatures. For Kuttusan, he initially toyed with actors Sunil Sukhada, the late Sasi Kalinga, and Mamukkoya, eventually opting for the latter. “The witch Dakini (Kuttusan’s partner in crime) was an easy choice: I could not 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 Kuttusan’s aides, whilst Bijukuttan’s face was used for Luttapi. Actor-scenarist Chemban Vinod Jose appears as the dark imp Puttalu (Luttapi’s uncle), while sinister scientists Lottulodukku and Gulgulumal — known for their expertise in inventing destructive weaponry — are brought to life by comedians Kottayam Pradeep and Salim Kumar’s faces, respectively.
The 42-year-old says he kept his Mayavi series interactive, often sharing the artworks with his family and friends and on his social media handles for feedback before starting work on a new character. After going through the responses, Anoop picked actors Kalidas Jayaram and Nazriya Nazim Fahadh to portray Raju and Radha for their “child-like faces”. But who would take perhaps the most significant character in the series, Mayavi?
“That, of course, was the million-dollar question and I had in my mind Kunchacko Boban, Fahadh Fasil and Tovino Thomas. It was a tough call and I eventually felt Tovino would be the best pick for his boyish charm. Also, he has a superhero movie coming up, Minnal Murali, and I thought that would lend a certain appeal in the popular imagination,” says Anoop.
Anoop Velayudhan’s works can be seen on Instagram @artofanoop