Saturday, 26 November 2011

Blue blistering barnacles

I grew up in a pretty sober home.  We didn't have a TV.  Movies were rare.  Books were plentiful.

Along the way a special group of comics crept in.  I don't exactly remember when I read the first. But I think it may have been The Calculus Affair.  I must have been about 8 at the time.

Over our growing up years the various characters in Tintin's world became our friends.  The 22 volumes that were available to us (the early crudely-drawn Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Herge's final unfinished Tintin and Alpha Art remain unread).  But the rest of the books - with the irascible Captain Haddock and the bumbling Thomson and Thompson (with the silent p) and Professor Calculus and Bianca Castefoire..  all are part of who we grew up as.

The next gen of Eichers have taken up the same love for Herge's ligne claire drawings.  One of the high-lights of our annual pilgrimage to Shanti Kunj are the endless hours lying in bed reading and rereading Tintin comics.  The fascination continues here in Thane town.  Our two Tintin volumes that we have (Tintin in Tibet, Land of Black Gold) are endlessly re-read. One year we made Enoch's birthday cake as Tintin.

It was thus with a little trepidation that we embarked upon the highlight of the week - going to see Spielberg's big-budget Hollywood adaptation of The Secret of the Unicorn.  I asked my good friend Vasu Vittal what he thought - he told me to be prepared for Hollywood.  I did.

The film was a pure adrenaline rush.  Tintin on speed. Tintin in the most lush jaw-droppingly beautiful locales.  Wow.  The battle scene between Sir Francis Haddock's Unicorn and Red Rackham's raider stupendous.  The desert scenes achingly beautiful.  The clarity of the lostness of being adrift at sea. Every image yearned to be seen again and pondered over.  Like a comic book.

Having gone in with low expectations - and not expecting every bit of the beloved books to be reproduced the kids and I had a non-stop whooping and laughter marathon.  Our very dear (and for security purposes nameless) friends had drove all the way from Mumbai-town to give us this treat - and we all enjoyed every bit of it.  Not for me the fulminations of Tintin purists.

I will take my Thomson and Thompson as they come.  In ligne claire and in Hollywood too.

A stray line I read a few weeks ago suddenly made sense. The author said that the genius of a comic strip is that our minds have to fill in the blanks of what happens between the images.  This does not happen in a film.  Everything is there.  The challenge for the comic creator is to show enough and get your mind to fill in the rest.

Just like no set of Narnia films will ever do justice to the simplicity and the spriteness of Lewis' works - no set of Hollywood behemoths (and likeable ones at that) will push Herge's volumes into the trash.  For one thing - the totally painstaking research that went into all but the very first volumes will continue to shine forward.  A recent article shows how Herge meticulously drew the various cars of the day into his stories.  And then there is the slapstick and the adventure and the quirks of characters that draw you through.  And did I speak about the colours...

Our kids will in all probability be having to pry their own brood away from the ye olde Eicher Tintin volumes sometime in the distant future...

So I say 'blue blistering barnacles' to all who dislike the film.  Give Spielberg his due.  And keep reading Herge.  After all - as Cuthbert Calculus said at the end of the orginal Secret of the Unicorn: "All's well that ends well!"


  1. Hey, Andi. Even I can't just wait to see the Tintin movie. My brother and me were brought up on the Tintin adventures. My first one was 'Black Island'...

  2. Black Island was a favorite of mine too. That large ape running away from Snowy... classic. Actually each volume has its own joys...

  3. I watched the Tin Tin movie tonight at Nehru Place. Very entertaining. It brings back memories of reading Tin Tin in my 7th grade school library.