22 January, 2021

How To Laugh In Malayalam

Comedy is serious—and devilish—business in God’s Own Utopia. A quick history of laughter.

Sepia Days
(From left) Adoor Bhasi and Prem Nazir in Kannur Deluxe (1969), Bahadoor, S.P. Pillai
How To Laugh In Malayalam

“Laughter promotes a bond and simultaneously draws a line”

—Konrad Lorenz, On Aggression


If someone were to say that hum­our and comedy form an integral part of Malayali life, politics and culture, you may be prompted to ask, ‘So what’s unique about that?’.  Although a valid question, it would miss the sheer extent and nature of it that’s obvious to those who know it and can compare. Last week, comed­ian Indrans won the state’s best actor award­. In 2010, Salim Kumar, another comedian, got the national award for best actor. That both of them won it, paradoxically, for tragic roles is not the only reason one can say that hum­our is serious business in Kerala.

Laughter, hilarious and liberating, often­times cynical and dark, invariably emerges in all discourses and interactions—they come in umpteen forms: as parodies, double entendres, mimicry, cartooning, spoofing…. Kerala’s folk and...



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