Lovefool 08.08.11 | Rub The Lotus

A weekend overdosing on Bollywood movies inspires Lovefool to dig into Grant Morrison and Philip Bond’s Vimanarama.


I seem to have gotten a bit silly in my old age. This weekend, I stayed in watching Bollywood movies lovingly delivered to me by my mother-in-law that are actually from India, with certification certificates before the opening credits and everything (thanks, Amberley and Joe!), and drinking tea. Herbal tea. Now, the Bollywood movies aren’t new. I have, as probably previously brought up, been something of a mythology buff my entire life and all studies of myth, even the casual ones, come back to India. And India, to a girl who grew up global (thanks, Army!) before settling down in the Midwest, is cool. The food is delicious, the music is fun, the culture is big and different and old. Almost unspeakably ancient to an American, really. Some of America sits back with a sneer for the rest of the backwards world but think about this. We’re a little over two hundred years old. Human remains found in India have been dated back 30,000 years.
It’s okay, I’ll give you a minute to think about those numbers.
So where does this intersect in this nerd girl’s life? Bollywood, funnybook love stories and myth? Vimanarama, by Grant Morrison and Philip Bond. Bond has done some truly excellent work, including Tank Girl and Kill Your Boyfriend, the latter with Grant Morrison. He’s a great artist, able to adapt fluidly. Kill Your Boyfriend, with the exact same pairing and some help, manages to convey something much different. Vimanarama is a little like drinking a Four Loko, the old-school kind, and then following it up with a box of pixie sticks. It’s all neon colors and floaty ships and magical sci-fi gods from the Subcontinent. And Grant Morrison is ridiculously smart and will periodically go away and read Bullfinch’s or decide that he needs to learn about Islam for real after 9/11 instead of just joining the shouting and then he’ll come back and write Kill Your Boyfriend or Vimanarama.
So where, specifically, does this intersect with this column? Well, of course, we here at Lovefool know that all good myths are about love. I mean, sure, you’ve got some decent creation myths out there that aren’t love stories but the really gripping stories have a little bit of love in them. And so this one begins with Ali, a young British Muslim, getting ready to meet his betrothed, Sofia, a pretty accountant’s daughter from Southampton. Only his older, very devout brother, Omar, falls through a hole in the back of their father’s store and is trapped beneath a stack of Turkish Delight. So instead of heading to the airport to meet his destiny, Ali ends up taking Omar to the hospital. We find out that Ali is actually carrying a noose in his back pocket in case Sofia ends up being ugly, which would be obvious proof that God hates him. That’s our hero.
Eventually, Omar decides he’s done being under watch for his traumatic brain injury, despite the fact that he needs to be, and bolts from the hospital, taking Ali back to the store. When they arrive, they discover that Omar’s child has crawled into the hole in the back of the shop and Sofia has followed him. Ali, of course, rolling his eyes all the way, goes down into the seemingly small hole and causes the end of the world. He manages this by not catching his nephew before he manages a gate releasing some icky Atlantean robot gods. Fortunately, a handy nearly-destroyed ancient computer manages to tell Ali and Sofia to use an equally handy glowing lotus to summon their counterparts, the Ultra-Hadeen. The Atlanteans are on their way to Manhattan, which is apparently Atlantis, to grab some ancient WMDs while one of the Ultra-Hadeen discovers that Sofia is apparently his reincarnated girlfriend. While Sofia is attempting to fend off some woo (and a fainting spell), the rest of the Ultra-Hadeen are pretty much like “Dude, it’s only been six thousand years, what’d you do to the place?” In the meantime, Ali has figured out that Sofia is kind of a babe and a bit of a sassy one, at that, and he might be pretty okay with this marriage after all.
And then Ali and Omar’s dad has a heart attack and Omar slips into a coma and Sofia is carried off by Ben Rama and Ali is just like “Well, okay, then, THIS IS PRETTY TYPICAL OF MY LIFE.” It’s a bit of a Bella Swan moment, really, the sulky bit. Eventually, though, Ali pulls himself together and decides to do something. Then the whole thing ends up going into some serious Shakespearean territory, with Ali using his soul as a guided missile of sorts, and Sofia dumps Rama, who decides that he’s going to be the one who goes on basically a kamikaze mission to kill the Atlanteans. Sofia manages to bring Ali back from the netherworld, with a lot of help from Rama, and these two crazy kids end up in love forever in a world that’s discovering seven ancient cities filled with enough technology to make it rain vitamins. Ali ends up better than ever and he and Sofia are shown as happily-ever-after. Everything is different for everyone because of love.
That is the magic of Bollywood made into a comic. I’m a little sketchy on arranged marriages, despite having read compelling arguments from the pro-side, and I really want to be skeptical when Bollywood stars end up revived from various ailments because, in the real deal, someone occasionally ends up terrifyingly close to death. But all that falls away pretty much the second I flip to the splash pages of the girls playing volleyball in the rain, their movements perfectly choreographed with each other, and I’m an open sponge, ready to absorb whatever the director, or Grant Morrison, is throwing at me. Vimanarama is a love story, starring two teenagers and a demigod, and it’s a journey, showing Ali growing from a petulant punk to a real, live man who is doing what he thinks is best for humanity, not just himself, and he makes these steps supported by his family, who loves him. And I, the reader, totally buy every second of it. I’m all in for the end of the world.
It’s the best of Bollywood spirit translated for Vertigo readers by some of the best of the comics world and, just like a good Bollywood movie, I cried right before the end. There are a number of parallels between the book and some specific Bollywood tropes, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. I want you, my nerdlings, to go out and pick up a copy for yourself. And then maybe watch something with subtitles and dancing while drinking a nice cup of tea.
(Thanks to Mike, who told me he wanted to read something about Bollywood.) | Erin Jameson

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