Published: 05th June 2020
How this Bangalore-based duo are giving Malayalam pop culture new meaning, new purpose
The minds behind Funcher Shop who create products and artwork based on relevant social issues in Kerala open up about how they like to answer to major issues through creative messages
On May 27, a starving, pregnant elephant in Palakkad allegedly consumed a pineapple stuffed with explosives. After days of wandering a forest in pain, the unwitting animal marched slowly to the Velliyar River where she attempted to draw enough water into her trunk to numb the pain. According to reports, she passed away 20 days after the brutal incident. While many of us were short of words in the face of an atrocity so inhumane, an artwork on Instagram was the closest thing people could share in her remembrance. The painting represents the elephant in the river, her trunk bleeding into the water. In her belly, a small bewildered elephant fetus asks 'Amme?' (meaning mother in Malayalam).
The painting was created by Arosh Thevadathil, known under the Instagram handle Doodle Muni. He is the co-founder of Funcher Shop, a cartoon and illustration brand steeped in Malayali culture that was set up in 2016. Arosh who is from Kozhikode and Suresh Ramakrishnan, who hails from Palakkad and grew up in Kolkata, set up Funcher Shop because they had grown tired of the marketing world and recycling the same ideas for different brands. They say, "At the time, there was no such thing in Kerala. We wanted to make t-shirts and other knick knacks that weren't just meaningless pop culture references, we wanted it to mean something to the people buying them. We didn't want to plan too much."
The company was built on the duo's own money and a lot of sacrifices after saying goodbye to the corporate world. Over the years, Arosh's Instagram page and the Funcher Shop platform started to represent a place where important issues could be represented. People began taking comfort in their responses to major events. "Any major incident that happens in Kerala gets a response with a doodle or two. The idea is to use the brand to create awareness. These days, people call us up when a major issue comes up. Just this morning, someone called us from abroad asking us to do something about an issue they are facing. The page has come to represent daily life and a way to deal with and express issues that we all have to deal with."
Currently, Funcher Shop has a four member team based in Bengaluru. They also own a small cafe in the first floor of their building called the Kitchen of Joy where they routinely feed two stray dogs that have become a regular on the page. As it is with any fast growing brand, the general public can be just as quick to brand you for your ideologies. How has the team been dealing with this? "We have been called 'Anti South Indian'!" they laugh, "A lot of people justify the things we are criticising and make excuses about horrible behavious. But we have learnt that with anything like this, we can get 80 per cent of support and the rest are just depraved and waiting around to makie unnecessary comments."
The team works with an absolute understanding that social issues are what that deserve the utmost creative support. And they try to deliver on the same by creating things that are backed by authentic needs and ideologies.