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Thursday, May 01, 2003

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Delightful addendum

IT IS an intrinsic characteristic of a cartoon that it should evoke a smile in the viewer. If executed well it doesn't dither and fall without an accompanying text; the illustration is strong enough to stand-alone. And so it is that ahead of the release of `Lanthenbatheriyile Luthiniakal,' the first novel by short story writer N. S. Madhavan, the illustrations that go with the book were up on display.

Offering visual relief to a text that is woven in the backdrop of incidents in the life of Kochi is a series of illustrations done by Delhi-based cartoonist, Bonny Thomas. For three days the black and white pictures adorned the walls of Durbar Hall, where meandering visitors were transported to different eras covering random time spans, or witness to scenes which remarkably capture the vitality of an ordinary people.

Bonny Thomas, himself a resident of Ponjikkara till he left for greener pastures in New Delhi where he works as a cartoonist for The Economic Times, says he scrupulously researched the history of the area before he sat down to do the illustrations. His explorations yielded delightful results; a map of an imaginary island where the novel is enacted (possibly Ponjikkara village on Mulavukad island) of a rag tag band as it plays `Sa Re Jahan Se Achha,' warriors dressed as Roman legionaries, and stately women in ceremonial finery as they sashay down the hallway carrying pots, candles and flowers. The book doesn't claim to be a historical guideline, and Bonny Thomas makes bold interpretations of little known or invented incidents.

Exaggerated strokes and the use of humour in no way depreciate the intellectual content of a book; on the contrary it breaks the monotony of text and adds to its instructional power. Bonny Thomas's pen drawing is slick and it takes him only a few, simple lines to subtly express his thoughts. One cannot help trace easy references to well-known cartoons of Gaul in his pictures, which show Roman warriors.

The exhibition was put together by the Centre for Studies in Culture and Heritage of Cochin in keeping with its ongoing concern of reviving an interest in Kochi's unique cultural background.


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