It is said that change doesn’t come easily to Bengal (which is, technically, as of August 2011, Poschim Bongo, thankyouverymuch). Under Mamata Banerjee, however, it’s like a Bob Dylan song. There’s Rabindra sangeet being played at pedestrian crossings in Kolkata. Loan defaulting farmers don’t have to worry about banks repossessing their lands (Didi has said banks are not to touch defaulters’ lands). In a matter of months, the mood in the state has changed from gruntled to disgruntled. The euphoric optimism about the rule of Didi seems to have gone out (in certain parts of Kolkata at least) like lights did during loadshedding. Recently, she was likened to the lunatic Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. Which is amusing and informative and all that but really, nothing that has been written in the media so far comes even close to the technicolor genius of Chairman Meow and the Protectors of the Proletariat.
When the imperialist pug Didi topples the Reds from their bastion, it is time for Chairman Meow to return. The fat cat will not let the dogs take over without a fight. He returns and brings his crew, which includes a bird who is a bomb-making expert and has only one wing (the left one, naturally), out of retirement. Meanwhile, news of Meow’s return reaches Didi. A cat and dog fight was never so much fun.
Author Anant Singh and artist Abhijeet Kini, take a bow. While the story is fun, it’s full of cliches and silliness that make it enjoyable, if not wildly memorable. Some of Anant Singh’s characters are delightful (like Chairman Meow and Left Wing) and I love the page in which he gives the reader a quick history lesson with Karl Minx, Lemming and Starling. A few episodes, like the revolutionaries in a McDonald’s, are nicely done and Singh tries to nuance the colourful cartoon chaos with a balanced view of what really happened in Bengal. But the star of Chairman Meow is Abhijeet Kini. If you’re not convinced of his genius by looking at Meow’s adorable, scratch-under-his-chin face, please buy the book and see how brilliantly he’s managed to make a pug look like Didi. It’s brilliant. Mamata Banerjee’s election slogan was “Ma, Maati, Maanush” (Mother, Motherland, Mankind) and Didi’s slogan is “Kaka, Kutir, Kukur” (Uncle, Hut, Dog; in Bengali, the alliteration matches the original slogan neatly). For those who have to deal with Vodafone India’s crap service, Didi being a pug will have extra resonance but regardless of your mobile service provider, this conflation of Didi and the tail-wagging emblem of a MNC is very funny. Plus, I’d honestly never realised the resemblance between Mamata Banerjee and a pug.
My two teensy-weensy complaints are that the writing is a little small in certain parts and that the story ends too abruptly. (Although thanks to Kini, I think it’s impossible to not react with a wobbly “Awwww” at the last page.) I hope Singh and Kini have more adventures planned for Chairman Meow. He could totally be our Kung-fu Panda.
EDITED TO ADD: Some details of plot and a couple of crudely taken phone-camera photos of Didi the Pug and the leaders of the revolution.