Rs 395 | pp 272
It all started with a shooting star crashing into the land of Halahala. As the primordial world inhabited by the wise Tortle and other lesser creatures is set in a revolutionary, er, evolutionary motion, a new world order is born. A dystopian world that speaks one language — greed.
As Tortle loses out in the battle of evolution, Mahanana aka Nana takes over the reins in Halahala. With the taste of ‘mint-fresh’ money in his system, Nana goes all out with the guidance of ‘the hand’ to conquer the world with ‘Supa Kola’ — the official drink of the city, which allows one to succeed.
Thus Oumbe, from being a primitive village, transforms into a godforsaken, gigantic urban power ‘in the light of the Prophit’. And the allegorical shift is accompanied by strange phenomena such as trees that weep, magic painters who lose their magic after they have tasted money, robotic birds or ‘Robirds’ that feed on trees to produce toilet paper and crazy scientists who create cities from seeds.
Appupen a.k.a. George Mathen creates a surreal world in black, white and grey that strangely mirrors our own. The characters inhabit a realm that perceives everything in terms of greed and this hunger remains insatiable. It grows every single moment and reflects its capacity to swallow one and all. And in this race where everyone is a rat looking for cheese, and where everyone’s cheese is being moved all the time, one only chases it blindly.
In a bid to be a ‘Supa Man’, drinking ‘Supa Kola’, characters lose their identity and individualism only to become pitiable clones of one another. As the search for the ideal turns even more elusive, people get locked up in their own worlds dominated by two factors — solitude and loneliness. The line, “Hello honey. You look so tired... come here and give me a hug”, that emerges from a television set, urges a lonely soul to embrace it for want of acceptance, is poignant in its honesty.
The 272-page-long world of Halahala is a stark one. And Appupen has made that clear through the minimal use of text. Although from the outside, Halahala is black and white with shades of grey, this bleak entity is not devoid of life or colour. Eccentric characters walk in and out of the narrative without failing to leave an impression. The use of terse text highlights the bold imagery that tells the story of a planet that is fast dissipating and yet moving Moonward. The catch is, aren’t we all?