Breaking Stereotypes, Disney’s Ms Marvel and Malayalam Movie ‘Minnal Murali’ connected native audiences well with superheroes and their relevant storylines. While American superheroes are seen as always powerful, adventurous and devoid of vulnerable feelings, Arun R, an artificial intelligence (AI) artist from Kerala, visualized them in indigenous contexts. As he transferred DC Marvel’s heroes – Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, Black Widow – to Kerala, their savior and valiant spirit were dulled.
Batman, who seeks revenge for injustice, worries about bats attacking the rice paddies in Palakkad and is seen standing thoughtfully holding an umbrella next to a field. When Wonder Woman, who kills with her action, reaches Kozhikode, she struggles to wash her clothes, while a veil of boredom descends on Iron Man who kneels by a river in Thrissur.
Spiderman who stole the coconut couldn’t help himself but had to engage in construction work as penance in Kollam. A heartbroken Superman fails to find his lover Black Widow on a bus in Thiruvananthapuram. Like any other young lover, he is about to cry in a tearoom in Ulloor. Meanwhile, after working all night, Black Widow tries to find some respite by sleeping in a rice paddy in Alappuzha.
The sad and lonely superheroes aroused the curiosity of Congressman Shashi Tharoor who demanded an explanation. “What are these amazing people doing dressed like that anyway? Is there a context? Any explanation?” tweeted the MP from Kerala.
What are these amazing people doing dressed like that anyway? Is there a context? An explanation?
—Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) December 9, 2022
As ‘sad Kerala superheroes’ have taken the internet by storm, Arun R in a chat with indianexpress.com said that superheroes have always been portrayed as powerful and never vulnerable. He wanted to connect global superheroes with local elements. Asked about the inspiration behind the works, the 34-year-old recalled manipulating photographs and mixing native elements with fictional Alice in Wonderland years ago.
Arun, from Kottarakara in the Kollam district of Kerala, is not an ardent fan of DC, Marvel superheroes, but likes mythical characters. Explaining how he created the AI, he said he used the Midjourney tool which renders images from text descriptions. As Arun’s Instagram account grew in popularity with the viral images, he said many of his old posts with explicit content were flagged and he hid a few.
While experimenting with AI, Arun also brought a technological connection with the gods and the images also broke the internet. Tethered with electrical wires and equipment, the cyborg gods ensconced in native landscapes are beyond the imagination of many. “One is free to explore the art and one can experiment a lot, especially with the gods,” he said, adding that he had given a native touch to the physique of Jesus who looks melancholy holding children by his side. Sembadavan’s Angalamman, Tensor Sankaran, Kali Ma-trix, Buddha in Loop are among others.
An unconditional fan of the late filmmaker Padmarajan, he brought a touch of artificial intelligence to the famous film “Njan Gandharvan”. The sympathetic demigod “Gandharavan emerges” as a fierce alien in front of a young girl on Shankhumugham beach in Thiruvananthapuram. Arun said he wanted to give a creepy effect to the friendly mythical character.
Arun’s passion for spooky elements doesn’t stop there. He said he wanted to free himself from the narrative that Bodhisattva is always calm and peaceful in appearance. Giving a terrifying look to the bodhisattva, a person who is on the path to Buddhahood, Arun’s image shows a child surrounded by the fearsome creature.
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