Permission to reproduce this article has to be obtained from The New Indian Express
By Shevlin Sebastian
He is fat and round and has played hundreds of roles in a career spanning more than twenty years. His dialogue delivery, witty mannerisms and expressive face has made him one of the most popular comedians in Malayalam cinema. Yet, come Onam, if you ask any Malayali who is the modern representative of King Mahabali, the answer comes
without a moment's hesitation? Innocent!
No surprises then that his voice and face graces cassettes and posters of Maveli this Onam. So the question is: Why Innocent, and not Jagathy or mimicry artistes like Kottayam Nazir or Saju Kodian?
"His tummy and stout figure gives an impression of a rich Maharaja," says Dr. S.D. Singh, the psychiatrist of the Cochin Mental Health Centre. "If you make a thin man represent Mahabali, it will not be a right representation."
But why is Innocent preferred over the equally talented Jagathy, for example?
"Different people have different facial expressions in different jobs," says Singh. "For example, we know the expression of a chief justice or a doctor or a teacher. Somehow, the facial expression of Innocent tallies with the Malayali's impression of how Mahabali looks like."
Well known mimicry artist, K.S. Prasad, says, "Can you imagine any other person as Mahabali? Do you think Kala Bhavan Mani, Salim Kumar or Harisree Ashokan is the correct representation of Maveli?"
"No, no, no," continues Prasad on the phone. "It is only Innocent who is the right person. He is innocence personified, a wonderful human being and a great comedian."
Not everybody agrees. Saju Kodian says the association of Innocent with Maveli was a sheer accident.
"In the hit series, 'Dey Maveli Kombathu', it was Innocent's voice that was used for King Mahabali. That is why, for the Malayali, when you mention the word, Maveli, Innocent's face comes to mind. It could have been Jagathy or anybody else."
Another one who agrees is S.S. Anzu, an engineering student from Bangalore. "Since this series became a hit, everybody associates Maveli with Innocent," he says. "And come on, nobody takes this seriously, do they?"
Maybe not. But it is clear if you want to be a Maveli who resonates with Malayalis, you have to be fat, round, innocent, have a face that can mirror a thousand expressions (in other words, possess an incandescent talent) and last, but not the least, have a nice little tummy.
A tall order indeed!
Better to let Innocent be King Mahabali!