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Accent on humour

NITA SATHYENDRAN

‘Akkara Kazhchakal’ on YouTube has viewers in splits with the antics of expatriate Malayali George Thekkinmootil.

‘Akkara Kazhchakal,’ now in its 30th episode, is shot with a High Definition camera and all the cast and crew are unpaid.



Take on American Malayali life: (clockwise from top left) Abi Varghese, director; Ajayan, scriptwriter and co-director; scenes from ‘Akkara Kazhchakal.’

“Satisfaction guaranteed ...and definitely!” is what George, owner of Thekkinmootil Insurance Corporation, tells his customers in that typical Kottayam accent.

If you thought (sigh) here is another pesky insurance agent with cringe-worthy English language abilities… you are right! But, ‘Georgeattan’ of the acerbic wit,is no ordinary agent. He is the latest comedy star on the internet, the lead actor in the first-ever, weekly Malayalam sitcom, ‘Akkara Kazhchakal,’ broadcast through YouTube.

Through the lives of George, his wife, Rincy (a nurse), their two ‘Americanised’ kids plus a few acquaintances, like his assistant Gregory a.k.a ‘Girigiri’ and Mahi and Babykuttan – two naive male nurses and recent emigrants, this comical and refreshingly sarcastic sitcom chronicles realities behind Malayali expatriate life in the United States (U.S.).

Cult status

What started off as a weekend project by two young New Jersey-based Malayali expatriates, Abi Varghese and Ajayan Venugopalan, has now acquired a cult status on the net, so much so that it has been picked up by Kairali TV, U.S.A. “For both Abi and I, filmmaking has always been a passion,” says Ajayan, scriptwriter and co-director of the series.

“Abi, an alumnus of New York Film Academy, has a production house called ‘Infamous Coconut Productions.’ He happened to hear my music album ‘Spandangal’ and we decided to collaborate on projects. We wanted to start off with something small and hit upon the idea of a sitcom based on American Malayali life. Sitcoms are a very popular format here, something that has rarely been experimented in India. It allows us to stick to one storyline per episode and allows the viewer to get on-board anytime,” adds the software engineer from Palakkad.

‘Akkara Kazhchakal,’ now in its 30th episode, is shot with a High Definition camera and all the cast and crew are unpaid.

“Simply put, its just two people with a camera, a light and a bunch of actors,” explains Abi, who “moonlights as a finance manager.”

All the actors, including Josekutty Valiyakallumkal who plays George, Sajini who plays Rincy and Jacob Gregory who plays Girigiri, are theatre enthusiasts. The two directors meet for lunch during weekdays and discuss ideas for the script, which Ajayan later writes and by Thursday it is sent out to the actors.

With its main theme centring on cultural differences, you would think that non-resident Indians would understand it better.

“In fact, many of our themes are universal,” says Ajayan. “We incorporate such issues as generation gap, dieting, politics at work and Malayali entrepreneurship; just that it’s within an expatriate context.”

With a total online viewer-ship per episode numbering 50,000 and counting, evidently the formula has clicked.

“It has been a surprising ride so far, because the only publicity has been through word of mouth. It is great to see George and the others getting mobbed by fans at functions and that too by the younger generation, for many of whom this is the only Malayalam programme they watch,” observes Abi.

Indeed, as one viewer remarked, “there is a little bit of George in each one of us.”

It looks like George has not only delivered on his promise but has also managed to endear himself to his viewers.

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