June 25, 2004

An AUTOGRAPH session -- Ratnabala, Rani comics, Ungal Junior, Rani muthu...

Though I studied in an English-medium school, my English-read-and-understand skills hadn't grown up much. My intellectual feed used to come from a genre of tamil comics and tamil crime novels in my pre-teens.

Ratnabala, Gokulam and Ambulimama were a craze for me. I'd pester my dad to get them for me. So many interesting fantasy stories, mythological stories - Gokulam would never run out of stories from Mahabhrata and Ramayan - moral stories, and a lot of general facts. I was and am a great fan of Vandumama, who would churn out fantasy story after story in Ratnabala. Ratnabala would go out of print, on and off. Ambulimama was a storehouse of so many nice stories that would always a good ending and a moral to take home.

In my pre-teens, my scope included Rani comics, Archie (not of Riverdale), Muthu comics. I had a particular fascination for 'Irumbukai Mayavi' who could pass electricity into himself, become invisble, go and solve mysteries. Rani comics, when it started had James Bond investigating something in every issue. And it'd be accompanied by his romantic interludes. The caricatures of James Bond and his girl friend in skimpy outfits - sexy enough in those days, a lot graceful compared to cleavages and navel points in close-up on TV these days - would be exciting for pre-teeners.

By this time, I had entered high-school, and friends out there introduced me to Tintin, Tinkle and the likes. Suppandi was my favorite. Around the same time, Ananda vikatan started Mr. X type of jokes (how many of you remember them?)

Once into 9th standard, I thought it was high time. Started drifting towards long stories - mostly verbose, less pictorial. Rajeshkumar's novels used to so exciting. Till date, he has been writing in 'Crime' novel. Novel titles would be so innovative and creative - like ;'Phosphorus pookkal'. His novels would also be interspersed so many tidbit scientific facts. Vivek-Gokulakrishnan pair would resolve case-after-case. Vivek would know everything, such an alert personality. And his wife - Roopala, a courageous and supportive lady.

Pattukottai Prabhakar's 'Bharath-Susila' on 'Ungal Junior' novels. Such a naughty pair. Susila's T-shirt slogans and painter 'Jay' would draw her. And then, Atma's bathilgal on various reader's questions. In those time, the Q&A sections in Tamil mags were very famous - Kumudam's Arasu, Kalki's Tharasu, Ithayam Pesukirathu's Maniyan bathigal, Thughlaq's Cho, Baagya's Bhagyaraj bathilgal. And most of them would be intellectual, atleast one social issue answered, some serious and some humourous. Atma's Q&A was outright cranky and nutty, and most importantly had the flavor of kadalai, jollu - common college terminologies.

Subha - two gentlemen, friends for life - Suresh and Balakrishnan, wrote under pseudonym Suba. It was an amazing feat according to me. Two people - how would they put their thoughts together, handle their egos, and that too write crime thrillers? With an awe, I'd read their novels. He had a detective pair too - Narendiran and Vaijayanthi - Naren-Vaij for short. They were a naughty pair too. And their boss - Ramadoss (not Dr. Anbumani's appa), and his colleague - Johnsundar. Subha's crimenovels would involve good description of physical fight and invariably, less clue-finding-case solving and more enemy-fighting-case-solving unlike Pattukottai Prabhakar's novels.

Not to forget, Rani Muthu and Kurumbur Kuppusami.

These writings made me get interested in reading as an activity and hobby.

Once into college - Loyola college - I was exposed to a different world of literature altogether.

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