Artists from Kerala come up with modern-day avatars of King Mahabali


They veer away from the legendary ruler’s widespread picture as a portly man in garish garments and crown

A swashbuckling Mahabali taking part in soccer and skateboarding, the benevolent king of the epics tucking right into a sadya and resembling your pleasant neighbourhood uncle are just a few of the myriad methods illustrators are re-imagining the legendary king. Legend has it that Onam is widely known when the King comes for an annual go to to his former kingdom after he was banished to the nether world by Vamana, an avatar of Lord Vishnu.

Reworking the thought

As lengthy as Remya Rajeev might bear in mind, each Onam, in popular culture, Mahabali was pictured as this portly, moustachioed man with a pot stomach, principally clad in garish garments and a crown. When Remya, a pupil of animation, bought the possibility to reimagine the Asura king, she picturised him as this very Malayali uncle sans crown or gaudy garments.

“I always wondered how and why the Asura king was shown as the fair, plump king wearing a sacred thread? Was it a kind of cultural appropriation that transformed him into this image from the warrior and scholar that he was supposed to be in our epics? So I was glad when designer Sabari Venu invited people to rework the king’s image,” she says.

Unnikrishna Menon Damodaran’s Mahabali, carrying a yellow PPE package, greets KK Shylaja, Health Minister of Kerala
 
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Special arrangement

Sabari, working from dwelling in Thiruvananthapuram, says that he was at all times puzzled how a Dravidian king might be truthful. Last 12 months, simply earlier than Onam, he challenged followers of his Insta deal with (@meancurry) to reinterpret the King’s picture. “The entries were amazing and people of all age groups participated in it. One had Mahabali as a woman while there was a child who had given Mahabali a skull cap. Many had tried to show him as an ordinary Malayali devoid of crown, silks and gold,” he recollects.

Graphic artist Rohit Bhasi feels that this concept of the King’s vibrant clothes should have come from Tamil and Telugu movies that depicted Asuras in a sure vogue. “Films influence us greatly and that might be why hoardings and ads began to picturise him as a plump man,” says Rohit.

Recently, Rohit got here up with two illustrations of Mahabali that veered away from the same old. “This is an Onam during a pandemic. I drew a Parashurama, Mahabali and Vamana, all wearing masks, spending time by the riverside, perhaps trying to figure out how Ganesha would wear a mask,” he says. Moreover, Mahabali is portrayed as this ruler who was extraordinarily fond of his folks. So Rohit puzzled how it will be if he had been to work together with some present-day Keralites. In that illustration the benevolent monarch is hanging out with some guys and a lady.

Sreejith PA has his Mahabali speeding forward on a skateboard

Sreejith PA has his Mahabali rushing ahead on a skateboard  
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Special arrangement

Artist-academic Manoj Vyloor, Principal of the College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram, has a special rationalization: “Every one has his/her model of Mahabali in his head and coronary heart. There is a folks track that goes ‘Onathappa, kudavayara…(Onathappa with a potbelly.)’ Probably somebody might have been impressed by that to create a Mahabali in that picture as a plump individual. This depiction has extra to do with the commercialisation of Onam,” While welcoming the efforts of graphic artists to re-imagine the favored visualisation Mahabali, he feels it must be finished rigorously and with due emphasis on what the king has come to characterize for Malayalis all around the world.

Performance appraisal

Keeping in with these concepts of a simply ruler, visible artist Unnikrishna Menon Damodaran has depicted a collection of Mahabali as half of a set he created for ‘Meanwhile in Kerala’ on his Instagram deal with (@unnikrishna), focussing on points and happenings in Kerala. His Mahabali, all masked and lined, in line with COVID-19 protocol, is greeting KK Shyalaja, Health Minister of Kerala.

Hima Susan Zacharia picturised Mahabali as this friendly, balding man tucking into his sadya

Hima Susan Zacharia picturised Mahabali as this pleasant, balding man tucking into his sadya
 
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Special arrangement

Says Unnikrishna: “My Mahabali is young and wearing a yellow PPEkit. He is on a yearly performance appraisal tour, meeting key personnel of the Kerala Government and leaders. Onam is different in the time of the pandemic and, obviously, the image of Mahabali too is impacted. But the values of that icon are intact and gives Malayalis hope in these days of Onam — the unbeatable spirit of equality and justice for all. He is still around in Kerala, probably meeting a few “popular” newsmakers!”

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