Marimayam uses humour and satire to tug at the red tape that entangles people in rules and regulation. The author talks to the team behind the comedy on Mazhavil Manorama

What is common between a round cap of a bottle and a round seal? If the seal, often used in government offices, is missing, the cap can be used in its place. This is one of the real-life incidents that was turned into a rib-tickling episode in Marimayam, a popular comedy on Mazhavil Manorama that highlights sleaze, incompetence and delay in government offices, public and private institutions.

The ‘cap episode’ was written by Shihab Karunagappally, one of the many from different walks of life who have contributed to the show, which shows the common man and his woes as he runs from one office to the other in search of a solution to his problems.

Sathyasheelan, Koya, Lolithan, Mandodari and Syamala, all characters in the show, highlight how red tape often strangles the common man or ties him in knots.

“Whoever thought that a series that took viewers through the maze of government would click with viewers?” wonders R. Unnikrishnan, the producer of the show.

Steering clear of the melodramatic saas-bahu sob sagas and domestic bickering, which goes in the name of comedy on Malayalam television channels, Marimayam bring bytes of reality garnished with humour and satire.

“Conflicts and flaws within the system and society create laughs. We have avoided double entendres, sleazy dialogues and scenes by keeping the show plain and simple. While topical jokes are used aplenty, what keeps viewers glued to the show are the current topics we tackle and the conflicts and confusion that arise as a result of that,” explains Unnikrishnan.

Perhaps that is why viewers also chip in with ideas based on their experience with the powers that be.

“Most of them are amateur writers who send the script to the channel. If we like the idea, changes are suggested, if needed. Some viewers send just the idea and we work on it. Our experiences also inspire certain episodes,” he says.

N.P. Sajeesh, Shihab and Vaddakumthala Sreekumar, who have been scriptwriters, say in unison that government offices are a treasure trove of such comic situations.

“It is a fact that corruption has become ingrained in our system, which is the underlying theme of the show. After the initial few episodes, we moved out of government offices to themes such as moral policing and ‘nookkukooli’ because they are relevant topics,” says Sajeesh, who works as a sub-editor in a Malayalam magazine.

Blood banks, revision of pension age, plight of small scale entrepreneurs, confusion over the Aadhar card ... are some of the subjects that have been taken up in the serial.

“Many incidents I have seen and heard have been converted into scripts. I do tweak certain instances for the episode,” says Shihab who has written over 20 episodes for the programme.

Sreekumar, who works as a Malayalam teacher at Madathil BJSM Higher Secondary school, Thazhava, Kollam, has written about the sorry state of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation, distribution of free uniforms to school students, educational loans and the APL-BPL confusion over distribution of wheat and rice, among others.

“There is always an element of grief in most of the stories. It is just that we put it across with a touch of humour,” says Sreekumar, who has also written some episodes for Munshi on Asianet, and a couple of comedies for Doordarshan and other regional channels.

What they all assert is that trying to get a Malayali audience to laugh or even smile is perhaps the toughest job around.

“The humour has to be simple, but bang on,” says Sreekumar.

Another tough job is the necessity for accuracy regarding procedures and laws of the land. “The episodes are not preachy, but we incorporate a lot of information pertaining to various aspects that many of us deal with. Therefore a lot of research goes into ensuring that the facts are authentic,” says the producer.

They have got accolades and criticism. “Some government officers have even asked us how we recreate the situations so well. However, there are certain officers who complain that we are showing them in a poor light,” Unnikrishnan says.

While getting into the thick of things, say at a panchayat office, taluk office, a government hospital, a school or bank, these writers even come up with new ideas, without going astray, he adds.

All of them lavishly give credit to the amazing cast of the show.

“They are such incredible actors that the script gets transformed into a different level altogether. They improvise with dialogue delivery, body language, and the best part is that they do spot dubbing, which lends a fresh feel to the show,” says Shihab.

Sajeesh adds: “They just behave. Marimayam is all about verbal humour, not the slapstick comedy that you find in most shows.”

The characters have become so popular that film producer Milan Jaleel made a movie, Vallatha Pahayan, featuring the artistes. The serial also received the Kerala state award for the best comedy programme for two consecutive years. Well, as is the trend these days, it is the reign of the aam aadmi on the small screen too.

Marimayam airs on Sundays, 9 p.m.

ON THE ROLLS

Manikandan Pattambi (Sathyasheelan), Niyas Bekkar (Koya), S.P. Sreekumar (Lolithan), Sneha (Mandodari), Manju Pathrose (Syamala), Riyas (Manmathan), Mani Shornur (Sugathan), Khalid (Sumesh)… Actors Rachana Narayanankutty, Sidhartha Siva, Vinod Kovoor and Praveen were also in the show earlier.

IN THE NEWS

Corruption

Bureaucratic hassles

Adulteration

Political games

Civic issues