The Hindu

Guy’s guises

The popular Guy Fawkes mask has very uncomplime­ntary beginnings

- naman ramachandr­an

Ibegan intentioni­n Mumbaiwrit­ingof exploringt­his with column every some facets of cinema made in and about Indonesia, but this being Deepavali season, the war-like decibel levels proved to be hugely distractin­g. The noise took me years back to a November in London, where bereft of the explosions they had been used to for decades, my ears thrilled to familiar bangs and pops.

It turns out that the crackers were because of this rhyme: “Remember, remember! The fifth of November, The Gunpowder treason and plot; I know of no reason, Why the Gunpowder treason, Should ever be forgot.”

There’sbut essentiall­y,more to it’s the a rhyme,reference to the Guy Fawkes Night, a commemorat­ion of the night when he tried to blow up the House of Lords in 1605, but was foiled in his attempt. Fawkes was merely the front guy in what was a larger plot.

He became an integral part of British popular culture, and when cinema reared her head in the early 20th century, he became a popular subject. In Percy Stow’s 1904 comedy short, Guy Fawkes’ Day, a father poses as Guy, while his children set him alight. The 1907 short, Guy Fawkes, the director of

which is unknown, explores the subject in a more serious manner, as doesErnest G. Batley's 1913short, Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. The first feature-lengthsubj­ect appears to be Maurice Elvy's Guy Fawkes (1923) is G. unknown,manner, Plot. Batley’slook explores (1913).

Since then, the bomberLeah­y’s to have taken a until Jeff in television­2005, documentar­y Quest for Guy Fawkes, unless you count the British sitcom, Barbara, whose 2003 episode set on a bonfire night was titled ‘Guy Fawkes’. There have been numerous other British television passing references, but let us turn our

attention to the famous mask, the image by which we all reference Fawkes with. The iconic image comes from Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta graphic novel

series that began in 1982, with illustrati­ons by David Lloyd. If you are not a graphic novel fan, you are far more likely to remember the 2005 V for Vendetta

film adaptation, where James screenplay McTeigueby the directed Wachowski a brothers (now Wachowski brother and sister, but that’s a different story) with graphic art by Lloyd.

In the film, we are in a dystopian future, where the United Kingdom is ruled by fascists, and the titular V (played by Wachowski regular, Hugo Weaving) plots to recreate Guy Fawkes’ explosive mission, helped by the comely Evey (Natalie Portman). Like most Moore adaptation­s, including From Hell (2001) and The League of Extraordin­ary Gentlemen (2003), the film failed to live up to the glories of the graphic novel. However, it did succeed in exposing the Fawkes mask to a new generation, and today, almost every protest against fascist regimes in the West sees people wearing these masks. Not bad for what began as a terrorist plot 410 years ago.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India