Saturday, December 4

Baal Ki Khaal

This one is dedicated to two childhood friends, each with canine companions that went by the name Snowy. Both wore crowns of flipped up tufts of hair that settled into a more orderly mop by the time it reached the back of their heads (though one believed he took it after Shashi Kapoor!). Both wore their principles on their sleeves, embodying all thought good in boyhood – much the kind that mothers made examples of. And both were only too willing, in their inimitably individual ways, to battle lengthening odds in a world where childhood innocence was rapidly fading away.

The first of the duo now sports a mildly sparser mane, perhaps in deference to ravages of time. Even as his contemporaries get cynical with age, his spunk has not dimmed much: he remains almost as idealistic to a fault. Peddling counsel in a premier brainwasher outfit (aka Strategy Consulting), his worldly ambitions revolve around Pedder Road, desiring future lodgings in its vicinity. Meanwhile, he plays proud papa to a precociously gifted child. On meeting old partners in crime he debates residential choices in modest Mumbai vs garish Gurgaon (purely in sq ft terms), but mostly signs off ruing lost opportunities to ride the real estate boom at either. The script alas has not altered much in a few price correction cycles. Yet, the world would be so much a better place if only a fraction of his fantastic ideas were to change address from his first class brain to take up abode in the real world without. My best for you, Mr M; and hope that, some day, the letter does not stand for Muddle too.

The other hero, equally principled but more action-prone, has the privilege of staying unsullied by tests of time only accorded to larger-than-life fictional characters. He occasionally comes to mind when trying to hook my 14 month old to Cartoon Network for a few moments of domestic calm (and yes, we shall rue this TV pitch later). Meet Tintin, who last week made it to Indian mainstream media with news that his canon is to be translated into Hindi. For sake of the hordes of new friends nee fans he shall inevitably add in the new Indian avatar (he already does Bengali), one hopes Tintin stays Tintin, even as his support cast and the books adopt new name tags. This is important: this space has argued against avoidable tinkering with Enid Blyton's legacy earlier. Equally, word-play is intrinsic to Tintin reading pleasure: its characters indulge in malapropism, spoonerism, cuss-words-that-aren't, et al (google them if need) hence greater danger of being lost in translation.

Fortunately, two differences can be discerned upfront. Firstly, the Famous Five body of work existed and was accessible to the young English reader; and changes focused on style than substance, presentation tweaks presumably due to audience inability to appreciate the books' context. Tintin in Hindi, on the other hand, explores new readership vistas. Second, the English versions, where my friendship with the evil-fighting Belgian reporter took roots, too were brilliant adaptations from original French. The Tintin team has been there, done that (Hindi is translation # 58, with over 200 million endorsing sales). Thus, my sense is largely unaltered plots, even as some props take into account Indian sensibilities. Hence Snowy, originally Milou, becomes Natkhat and Thomson and Thompson aka Dupont et Dupond turn Santu-Bantu without much ado (unless you believe that Bianca became Mallika Castafiore for Sherawat reasons - her crooning 'abhi to main jawan hoon' perhaps for our other protagonist, the adorable Mr M, should easily settle that one)!

And what better way to test the hypothesis than check for Captain Archibald Haddock's colourful curses - 'dus hazaar tadtadate toofan' (ten thousand thundering typhoons) is easy; 'karodo karod kasmasate kaale kacchuve' (millions-and-millions-of squirming-black-turtles, replacing the iconic billions-of-bilious-blue-blistering-barnacles) sounds a wee bit of compromise. There may be more (difficult to replicate 'Thomson with a P like in psychology' in Santu-Bantu milieu) but intent remains ideal and the touchstone (one learns from you sometimes, Mr M) of my vote today. Thumbs up for the Tintin effort therefore; and no elitist position, caught up in (what Tintin's catchphrase 'Great Snakes' has changed to) 'baal ki khaal'!


Anonymous said...

Well written as usual though I'd take Asterix over Tintin any day! Keep this going though :)


Anonymous said...

Helluva! narrator, phew! it started on the Malgudi Days feel; three wanderer pals and their life in the boondocks. Of course our wise guy! appeared to be Chamy (Swami), nostalgic for Mani & Rajam. But little did we know, that it would conclude on Tin Tin’s worrisome avatar (lame, but immense interest in unreasonable Sherawat reasons :-)).
Have you seen what has become of our hazy, dull and addictive Tom & Jerry … Gee! the colors are brighter, sharper and annoying. Tom has shinny paws and Jerry has long n curvy eye lashes.