To say that Toms is one of the most influential cartoonists Kerala has ever produced, would be an understatement. At one point, it was said that he had single-handedly influenced the way a Malayali read a magazine — from back to front — thanks to his immensely popular cartoon strip ‘Bobanum Moliyum’ which appeared in the back pages of the Malayala Manorama weekly.
Toms was born in Kuttanad in 1929 to V.T. Kunjuthomman and Cicily Thomas. He graduated with a BA degree, joined the Malayala Manorama as a cartoonist in 1961, and worked there till his retirement in 1987.
Toms’ impish cartoon characters, Boban and Molly have been a household name in Kerala for over 40 years. Besides Boban and his sister Molly, Toms peoples his cartoons with characters like Kunchukurup, Appy-Hippy, Unnikuttan, Panchayat President Chettan and his wife, who have all found a place in the hearts of Malayalis.
When asked by a young fan about the genesis of Boban and Molly, Toms said he had named them after two children in the neighbourhood who one day came to him and asked him to draw their picture. Toms said: “This took place after these two naughty children thwarted every attempt of mine to prevent them from jumping the fence around my house and walking through the kitchen, on their way to school.”
The real-life Boban and Molly are now grown-ups. Boban is in the Gulf and Molly is a housewife in Alappuzha. Added a jubilant Toms, “In fact, just the other day, I went to the naming ceremony of Molly’s grandchild!”
After retiring from the Malayala Manorama, Toms started publishing ‘Bobanum Mollyum’ in Kalakaumudi, against which the Manorama went to court. A district court temporarily restrained Toms and permitted Manorama to continue publication of the cartoon serial. However, on an appeal, the Kerala High Court ruled that pursuant to the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, while the ownership of the cartoon strips drawn during Toms’ employment with Manorama would continue to be with the publication, Toms was free to own the characters Boban and Molly and could continue to create cartoon strips featuring them and publish them at his will.
To celebrate the golden jubilee of the cartoon strip, Toms has teamed up with producer Vijayakumar to feature his characters in a mega television serial venture Kizhukkamthookku Panchayat, Based on ‘Bobanum Mollyum’, the serial is produced by the Thiruvalla-based Keraladesom Movies. The serial would be a full-length satire depicting various day-to-day social political issues.
Toms is married to Thresiakutty and they have three sons and three daughters.