A tribute to 'Crazy' Mohan

Cartoonist Keshav’s poetic connection with ‘Crazy’ Mohan

190611_Tribute to Crazy mohan Friday page

190611_Tribute to Crazy mohan Friday page  

From 2010, he was writing a poem daily for my Krishna paintings

I was introduced to Crazy Mohan when I was contributing jokes and cartoons to Ananda Vikatan in the early 1980s. First thing that struck one was his simplicity, uninterrupted flow of thoughts like a gentle stream, with a voice that resonated like a bell. Words fell into place for him like magic. Alliterations, puns, cricket jargon, altered phrases, twist in the tale — always expect the unexpected when Crazy is around.

Exaggeration was his forte and he used it to his advantage. Always, humour without malice.

He began writing his verse (Venba) for my Krishna paintings from around 2010 (till June 9, 2019). Over phone, he would recite the verse and invariable add, ‘Is that okay?’ He would call to find out about the nuances or the meaning of the symbols used in the paintings. Often he would come up with zany ideas and ask, ‘Can I send it (by mail to his followers/fans)?’ He did not believe in texting. Always the telephone. And he was a great conversationalist — now hilarious, sometimes profound and often a guide, who could be a great source of strength and inspiration.

His mastery of Tamizh was amazing. There was grammar in the Venbas, deep philosophy in his thought and he appreciated the drawing (he was a good artist too.) Laced with his humour, the compositions became magical. He attributed his Venba skill to his friend Su Ravi, who taught him the art of composing the verse. Ravi was an artist himself. We three belonged to the Ravi Varma fan club. Crazy Mohan had done a lot of Ravi Varma paintings in poster colour. He also worked in digital format. The best was the one of Sri Ramana. He drew sketches of people while travelling and would send them to me. Air hostesses and co-artistes were drawn with accuracy and humour.

A few years ago, to commemorate the birth anniversary of Bharatiar, Crazy Mohan, along with Ravi Kalyanaraman and other literary friends, organised a show of his Venbas with my paintings at Bharatiar Illam in Tiruvallikkeni.

In 2015, he gave me a gist of ‘Chocolate Krishna’ — in fact I was working on an oil painting on the same theme. I called it ‘Cadbury Krishna’ because of the colours used. We talked more about it. During the 250th show of the play, the painting was gifted to Crazy Mohan, after Kamal Haasan unveiled it on stage.

Cartoonist Keshav’s poetic connection with ‘Crazy’ Mohan

It would be incomplete to talk about Mohan without mentioning his brother Balaji, who has been his pillar of strength. He would attribute his success to the joint family — his parents, grandparents and the solid support of his troupe, which stayed together for decades.

For his ‘Google Gatothkachan’ (the success of a play was enhanced with such unique names) he asked me to design the costume for Gatothkacha. His plays began like Tin Tin Comics — the story started right from the first frame and the pace was unmatched.


At the end of the ‘Ramanaayanam’ concert in April, Mohan announced: “We’re planning a similar show with the title ‘Crazy eNNam, Keshav VaNNam.’” I responded that his brother had already informed me about this and it would be an honour for me. Well, what will be, will be!

One of his Venbas, which is my favourite, goes: “If your son eats mud, and you cannot find the universe in his mouth — there is no doubt, you’re not Yashoda.”

Mohan often said, “Keshav, I’m sure one day, Krishna is going to come to your house and press the calling bell” — a thought he expressed in a Venba.

Cartoonist Keshav’s poetic connection with ‘Crazy’ Mohan

On Sunday last (June 9), I received the daily verse on Krishna. It went like this:

“O monkey kid,

Instil Mother Ramana in you.

Class distinctions will disappear.

Cycle of births will stop - Plead incessantly with the lofty hill. (Anna Malai)”

“The mind monkey takes refuge,

The compassion of Sun of the Lunar dynasty

cuts the chord of rebirth.”

“To become an ascetic for complete renunciation,

unlearn the unbecoming...” - Crazy Mohan

It was his last verse, I guess.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 12:54:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/keshavs-poetic-connection-with-crazy-mohan/article27899022.ece

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