Monday, March 14, 2016

Kerala's Super Mouse

Many youngsters in Kerala are fans of the comic book hero Dinkan. But they use him to mock formal religion and outdated beliefs

Photos: Dinkoists at a meeting in Kochi. They are holding a large tapioca and giving the 'Dinka, Dinka' greeting with their thumb; Photo by Ratheesh Sundaram. The comic hero Dinkan
By Shevlin Sebastian
Sarita Cherian lifted up the placard high above her head. On it was written, 'Dinkan Exists', in Malayalam. Her colleague shouted, “Dileep, with your comedy film, 'Professor Dinkan', you are hurting our religious sentiments.”
This protest took place outside [Mollywood star] Dileep’s 'Dhe Puttu’ restaurant on January 30, at Kochi, by the members of the Dinkoism religion. “We are angry that Dileep is using the name of Dinkan for his film,” says Sarita. “We don't know the storyline, as yet, but our God is Dinkan.” Dileep plays a magician in the film.
As for Dinkan, he is a comic strip character created by the Kottayam-based writer N. Somashekharan, 57, and artist Baby. A mouse, with a red cape, a yellow body suit and red shoes, he first appeared in the Malayalam children's magazine, 'Balamangalam' in 1983 and remained in print till the magazine closed down in 2012, even though Somasekharan left the magazine in 2005.
Dinkan has superpowers,” says Somasekharan. “He lived in a forest called Pankila. One day, Dinkan was abducted by aliens. They did some experiments on him. As a result, he became physically powerful, and could fly. Any animal, or person, who was in distress, could call out his name and Dinkan would come to the rescue, like Superman.”

Says Dinkan devotee Samoosa Thrikonadhyaya, “He is the god of the universe.  We also believe in the Big Laugh theory, which says that the entire universe originated from the big laugh of Lord Dinkan.” 

So, clearly, the protests against Dileep were a clever way of making fun of organised religions. They also pretend to get offended when anybody questions the divinity of Dinkan or their 'Holy Book' Balamangalam. “We were also making fun of those who protested against films like 'Hey Ram', 'PK' and 'Vishwaroopam',” says writer KS Binu. “We believe in a free and just society, based on scientific and rational thinking.”
Not surprisingly, nearly all the Dinkoists have read Dinkan as children. “He is a beloved character,” says writer Binu. “We have been his fans all along.”
But Somasekharan is not a supporter of the Dinkoism movement. “The Dinkoists are using Dinkan to mock people and concepts,” he says. “But this hero belongs to children.”
Thus far, Dinkoism is an amorphous grouping. They have not registered themselves as an organisation. But there are devotees in places like Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur and Kochi. But, thanks to their protest, at 'Dhe Puttu', which was broadcast widely, they have caught the imagination of Keralites everywhere.
On February 28, the Dinkoists held a meeting at Kochi, so that they could get in touch with each other. At a table, on the stage, there was a large piece of tapioca. “As a mouse, Dinkan's favourite food is tapioca,” says Sarita. “Uprooting tapioca from the ground represents uprooting the social evils of religion, racism and misogyny. Hence, Dinkoists promote the consumption of tapioca.”
And the Dinkoists also took a potshot at faith-healing, which is so prevalent in Kerala. One youngster, Mohan Das (name changed), stepped on stage and pretended to be a faith healer. When a young girl, Haritha Thambi, said that she was feeling very hot, Mohan pointed his arms ceiling-wards and invoked Dinkan. “Lord Dinkan, please cool down this girl,” said Mohan.

After a while, the girl said, “I feel all right now. Thank you Lord Dinkan.” Then the Dinkoists raised their right thumb, shifted it sideways rapidly, and shouted, 'Dinka', 'Dinka'. “This is our way of greeting each other,” says Sarita.
The audience yelled their appreciation and burst out into spirited laughter. In the crowd was Vinuraj MV, a 26-year-old IT professional. He had been following the Dinkoist movement on Facebook. So, when they announced a meeting, Vinuraj decided to attend it, so that he could get a better idea.
At the conclusion of the two-hour meeting, he felt that it was thought-provoking. “But I need more clarity on what they stand for,” he says. “So I might have to attend another meeting.” 

But Vinuraj enjoyed their parody skits. "There should be more groups like this, who can come up with new and interesting ideas," he says. "It will energise our society.”

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