A man walks on a road. As he reaches under a coconut tree, a coconut falls on his head, leaving him dead. A police officer rushes to the spot for investigation, and finally proclaims it as a ‘thenga kola’. In another instance, a man gloats over his new horse to his friend. The man says his horse is spoilt as it only eats ‘Neigh Chor’. The social media handle ‘Mean Curry’, a brain child of freelance artist Sabari Venu, is full of puns like these done in four frames. Sabari, using pun, creates a world around words that come in our daily conversations.
His works, which already have a good amount of followers, were brought under the limelight when Shashi Tharoor MP shared them online saying, ‘For those who enjoy bilingual Malayalam/English puns, there’s no better place than @behance “mean curry” comics!”
It was Sabari’s mother who showed him Tharoor’s post, and the artist is on cloud nine to have such recognition. “My mother told me about this when I woke up in the morning,” he says with a smile.
He says the quirky thought struck him quite accidentally, and he started it as a personal project in 2018. “It was a random thought,” says Sabari, an admirer of puns. “I love humour and crack jokes among my friends and family members. Once I got a pen tablet. It took me to drawing. It was then that the idea of comics popped into my head, and I decided to give it a shot. I began it to entertain myself — to keep my mind fresh,” he recalls.
He created the posts during his leisure time and posted them on his social media accounts. To his surprise, they were well received.
“I did not imagine people would like my chalu (lame jokes),” he giggles.
Feedbacks from people urged him to continue his journey of jokes. “But, I was not regular then. I would create and post whenever I had time. Now, I try to update my page at regular intervals,” he says.
It was not the popular Mean Curry during its inception. The comic strip was titled Thenga Kola. “I didn’t even have a page then. My creations were posted on my personal account, that too without a signature. My friends, then, told me they saw my works being circulated on social media groups, but didn’t realise they were mine until they saw it on my account. That made me realise the importance of adding my name.”
Ask him about the carefully chosen title for his page, laughing he says, “That itself is a pun. Mean Curry is derived from our Meen Curry (fish Curry),” he smiles.
Sabari’s work is not confined to a particular genre. Recently, he started talking politics, too. And, he admits that it makes him a tad nervous. “I don’t post political cartoons on the Mean Curry page. I publish them on my account. But, people will somehow find the page and, sometimes, criticise,” he says. But, he takes it in the right spirit. Though he is nervous and knows that people have expectations about him, he says he does not work solely to please the audience.
Also, Sabari does not sit and develop an idea. He finds threads for his works from conversations with his friends and family. “All I do is that I keep my eyes and ears open,” he says. “I listen to my friends and family talking whenever I hang out with them. As these conversation proceeds, they will naturally become a wordplay of English and Malayalam words. I think all these have contributed to my works,” says Sabari, who plays with Malayalam, English and Tamil words in his comics.
“I am not fluent in Tamil. But, most Malayalis can understand Tamil, and vice versa. So, it is not difficult,” he says. “I jot down points and make a rough draft. I have to work more on the text. These days, people have less attention span. They don’t have time to read large texts. So, I have to keep it short and straight,” says Sabari. According to him, people find his works interesting as they are light and different from regular memes. “Mostly, memes are made using movie scenes. In that case, Mean Curry is different. I think that makes them curious,” says Sabari.
Although it is not a source of income for him now, he hopes it would turn out so in the future. “At this point, it is more of a passion. After creating an audience base, I may be able to make money out of it. But, the recognition helps me in getting more projects,” points out Sabari, a graduate in design with specialisation in visual communication and branding. He pursued his graduation at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru. Sabari says he had learnt animation too there along with his regular subjects. “My final project was an animation one,” he says. He was working in a studio after that. Right now, he has left the job and freelances.
What are his future plans? Laughing, he says, “I am doing this coming strip to keep that thought away.” With a chuckle, he concludes, “But, I have some plans, like doing the masters. Let's see.”...