After BJP ‘sees’ Modi, Fort Kochi’s ‘Pappanji’ gets a new look and Kerala is laughing! Here is why

The BJP forced the carnival organisers to change the Modi-lookalike effigy. Now, the 'old man' looks like Kuttoosan — or is it Kummanam?

ByK A Shaji

Published Dec 30, 2022 | 9:34 PM Updated Dec 31, 2022 | 8:31 AM

Pappanji

There seems to be no end to the controversy surrounding Fort Kochi’s celebrated Pappanji, an effigy lit on 31 December at midnight every year.

Initially, the BJP objected to the effigy after the party workers found an uncanny resemblance to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Bowing to the pressure from the BJP and the police, the organisers of the Cochin Carnival agreed to change the look on Thursday, 29 December.

They made minor changes to the effigy’s face and added a long white beard, leaving Kerala, especially the internet community, in splits.

Kuttoosan or Kummanam?

Even as the changed look was reported and circulated on social media, a large section of people found it to have a resemblance to Kuttoosan, a character in Mayavi, a comic series published in the children’s magazine Balarama.

Kummanam

BJP leader Kummanam Rajasekharan.

Several social media users, especially Kuttoosan fans, decided to toe the BJP line and demanded the carnival organisers — albeit in a lighter vein  — to change the look so that their dear dark wizard would not be humiliated and go up in flames on 31 December.

The tale took a sudden twist when some others found the effigy looking like Kummanam Rajasekharan, former BJP chief in Kerala, who was also the Governor of Mizoram in 2018-19.

They asked why the BJP-RSS activists were not protesting against humiliating Kummanam, an influential South Indian voice of the saffron party.

Rajasekharan has often been laughed at in Kerala. Unperturbed, the BJP leader took them all in his stride.

Truth in BJP argument: Observers

Even as social media users made light of the Pappanji issue, independent observers felt there was some truth in the BJP-RSS argument that the effigy resembled Prime Minister Modi.

Pappanji-Fort Kochi

BJP workers said the festival organisers tried to humiliate Narendra Modi. (Supplied)

They pointed out that the Pappanjis of previous years were different in shape and appearance. On its part, BJP accused the creators of willfully trying to humiliate Modi.

“Going by the photographs of the Pappanji installed on Thursday, there was a deliberate attempt to humiliate Modi,” KS Shyju, Ernakulam district president of the BJP, said.

“What is the message they are giving to the world by burning a big effigy of their prime minister during the New Year celebrations? This is not unintentional. It was part of a larger conspiracy,” he added.

Meanwhile, several humorous solutions were found on social media, including having a clean-shaved Pappanji in jeans and a T-shirt.

Some others prescribed hair dye to make Pappanji younger, thus avoiding any resemblance to Modi or Kummanam.

Others join in

Non-BJP political leaders joined the discussions on Pappanji’s similarity with Modi. In a Facebook post, Kerala’s Education Minister V Sivankutty said: “Some people will sing only what they have learnt. This is Kerala. Let the truth prevail.”

Setting Pappanji ablaze at Fort Kochi in 2011. (Wikimedia Commons/Ajeeshkumar4u)

Setting Pappanji ablaze at Fort Kochi in 2011. (Wikimedia Commons/Ajeeshkumar4u)

Congress leader and MLA M Siddique said those who were fed up with Modi’s false promises, including one on bringing back the stash of black money corrupt politicians had deposited in Swiss banks, might have created the puppet, knowing well that it would be set ablaze.

“I am not in favour of burning anybody in effigy,” he added.

CPI(M) MLA VK Prasanth shared an image from the 2007 Malayalam film, Chhota Mumbai, in which a Pappanji was seen in red attire and a flowing white beard. It also resembled Modi.

“The film saved itself from BJP-RSS wrath by deciding to release it in 2007. The situation might have been different if it was to be released now,” he opined.

In Portuguese, Pappanji means older man, and it is customary for the residents of Fort Kochi to burn the effigy while welcoming the New Year.

The lighting of the effigy marks the end of the troubles of the previous year.

Who is Kuttoosan?

Black wizard Kuttoosan is a lovable villain in the comic series, Mayavi.

Kuttoosan

Kuttoosan from the Mayavi comic series. (Sourced)

Along with the witch, Dakini, lives in a hollow trunk of a dead tree in the forest. He aims to ‘trap’ imp Mayavi so that they could use his supernatural powers.

Kuttoosan and Dakini have Luttappi, an ‘evil’ but adorable imp as their aide.

Mayavi is the protector of the forest and his two little friends, Raju and Radha.

Incidentally, using cartoon characters from children’s magazines to satirically respond to serious contemporary issues is not new to Kerala.

Dinkoism and Dinkoists

A mock religion was ‘formed’ with Dinkan, a mouse born in a fictitious forest, Pankila.

Formed by a group of rationalists in 2008, Dinkoism has Balamangalam, a children’s magazine that ran the comic series, as its holy book.

According to Dinkoist ‘mythology’, the world was formed when Dingan bit a piece of tapioca. The ‘mythology’ challenges the ‘Big Bang Theory’ with its ‘Big Laughter Theory’, apparently making fun of religion that often questions scientific temperament.