09-Jan-2009

Lalu's Jumbo turn


Once upon a time, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad was a poor cattle-herding child with damaged toenails crushed under a buffalo's hooves. And even then, he was an ebullient boy with a talent for showmanship.
But, time melted away, as the clock raced forward turning months into years and years into decades until everyone realised that the railway minister was already 61, someone who may not ride a buffalo now.
But, here's an opportunity for everyone, including Lalu to have a virtual walk down the memory lane, a simulated flashback to relive his exploits, or at least watch himself doing all that he once did effortlessly—like reaching the buffalo's back from the front.
This would be courtesy an animation film being designed on him by Pawan Kumar, a 31-year-old cartoonist from Bihar. Kumar is convinced that animated Lalu would outclass and outplay all the remaining cartoon characters in the world.
According to Kumar, the animation flicks would feature Lalu's childhood and student days, his buffalo rides, fishing frolics, bunking school, his joining student politics and the JP movement thereafter, and also the subsequent rise and rise of the railway minister.
Incidentally, with Jumbo and Roadside Romeo enamouring the audience to the hilt, 2008 has already emerged as a watershed year for cartoon films made by the Indian film fraternity. Against this backdrop, many in Bihar are now inclined to believe that the animation flick on Lalu could be the one endearing icing on the cake in 2009.
The 40-minute animation film may take a few more weeks for completion. It has Kumar's childhood friend Shashi, who works for a private radio station, lending his voice to the animated Lalu.
"We are a five-member team with friends from animation industry chipping in for background score and graphics," Kumar said.
The first of the 16 planned film clips is ready, although it's not being launched at the moment. In fact, Kumar is looking for a big-time opening. "Lalu will be introduced to the audience just like the famous Tom and Jerry, or Mowgli. He could even be a bigger brand. So he deserves a bigger launch," he says.
The cartoonist claims he has Lalu's prior approval to this effect. "When I showed him the clips, Laluji patted me for the good work. He instantly liked the idea, and said I should complete the film at the earliest," Kumar claimed.
Although times have changed and so have the focus of his politics, but Lalu Prasad has remained a bit of an exhibitionist—one who triggers electric, contagious excitement by his sheer mannerism.
No wonder Kumar's maiden venture makes strong business sense as well with India emerging as a huge entertainment market and Lalu perhaps the cutest political kid on the block. Back home in Bihar too, nothing sells like Lalu.
Indeed, the railway minister has always been a brand in Bihar backwaters with products from toffee manufacturers to tobacco traders, wheat flour millers to cattle fodder makers and from mango sellers to toy manufacturers, they all have been running all the way to the banks by riding the Lalu bandwagon.
In the past too, in terms of being a power brand, Lalu has even perhaps pipped everyone to the post by emerging as one name, who has many products named after him.
With parliamentary elections round the corner, the animation flick perhaps suits Lalu, who has seen his political fortune slightly on a downturn, as well. His animated heroics and simulated histrionics together may even help him reconnect better to his constituency, which was once sold on him like Hamelin's mice on the Pied Piper.
With his Rashtriya Janata Dal relegated to the opposition benches in Bihar, and having lost six by-elections in a row—three each for the Lok Sabha and the state Assembly—held so far after the installation of the NDA government in Bihar, Lalu may even be feeling like rubbing his brand following on his political fortunes.

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