I thought it was only I who wanted more of Salma Sultana – the expressionless news reader on DD in eighties and early nineties, who always had a red rose pinned on her long hair. But I was pleasantly surprised when Salma Sultana reappeared in the latest graphic novel ‘Widhwa Ma Andhi Behen’ (Pop Culture Publishing) by Adhiraj Singh, albeit as a cartoon.
Clearly, there are many who yearn for the yesteryear icons of the big and small screen to show up, so that we relive those glorious days of melodramatic ‘masala’ Hindi films and memorable DD serials. Perhaps, this induced young writer Adhiraj Singh to bring them alive in his comic strips for adults.
The title itself suggests that the book is a kind of spoof on Bollywood. Two timeless characters of Hindi cinema, who have appeared in many films to make the hero’s life unbearably pathetic – Widhwa Ma and Andhi Behen (based on actors Nirupa Roy and Rakhee Gulzar) are central to the graphic novel. But here, you will not find them crying inconsolably at their terrible fate, rather they take the super avatar of crime-fighting duo ensuring that all the filmy mystery-solving need of movie buffs are taken care of! In the first sequence they take up the responsibility to look for the soul of cinema which has been lost due to the advent of new age films and actors like Abhay Deol.
There are four chapters in the book, comprising adventures of Ma and Behen, each one gripping and replete with hilarious parodies and characters from films.
Widhwa Ma and Andhi Behen solve the mysterious cases of the bride-abducting Were-Yeti of Ramgarhpur. Soon after they take on the ghost of the (very alive) AK Hangal, and rescue the Indian Women`s Hockey team from a `not-a-terrorist` attack and later come to the aid of forgotten stars from DD. Ma and Behen are on the case and at the scene - usually before anything even happens!
The novel has been treated like a comic thriller as the two super women meet several unforgettable characters like Dharam Paaji, Big Boss Salman and dancing queen Helen adorned with feathers, each mouthing memorable dialogues.
The allure of unforgettable characters like the ageless AK Hangal, chirpy Baby Tabassum, Karamchand, Jaani Dushman Sanjeev Kumar, Raj-Era Jailer Asrani and superhit couple Veeru-Basanti involve the readers totally.
The caricatures of the characters by Harsho Mohan Chattoraj are quite interesting and the parodies very original. Adhiraj Singh has developed his own quirky and humorous style of writing. His first comic, ‘Uud Bilaw Manus’ was released in collaboration with artist, Abhijeet Kini, this past February at India`s First Ever Comics Convention in Delhi.
In the present day SMS world when relishing a classic is a luxury, graphic novels are quickly becoming the new fad amongst youngsters. What we once dismissed as a children’s book has been reinvented and taken a new pop culture avatar. Just like the novel was born in the eighteenth century from poetry and prose, similarly the graphic novel is the baby of the present day world. Now, the onus is on young writers like Adhiraj Singh to take the genre further and popularise it.
Lastly, after the sensational reappearance of Salma Sultana, I can’t help wishing Adhiraj Singh presents the spoof on old unforgettable ads like Cadbury and Pepsi in his next graphic novel.