It’s 2:25 p.m. I’ve just come back from school. Could the driver have driven the school van any slower? Thankfully, there’s still 5 minutes remaining. I wash my hands and face in a hurry. My mom is putting plates on the dining table. However, we both know that I won’t be eating there.
“Kitni baar bola hai TV dekhte hue khaana mat khaaya kar!” she says as I pick up my plate and head straight to the drawing room.
It’s 2:29 p.m.
“Paper bicha le! Sofa pe khaana mat girana”, she adds handing me a piece of an old haldi stained newspaper. I have, by now, switched on the television. Cartoon Network beckons.
My mom leaves, knowing full well that for the next half-an-hour, she’ll be getting no attention from my side.
It’s 2:30 p.m. Finally.
“I got you with my winnin’ smile, I’m a livin’ lesson in flair and style” the theme song begins.
It’s time for The Mask.
Before Deadpool and Sherlock, there was The Mask; Edge City’s very own superhero who used his humour to diffuse a tense situation. Also, I can’t deny the fact that I occasionally hum the opening theme till date.
A ‘hyperactive degenerate’ (according to Edge City’s Lt. Mitch Kellaway) The Mask was the menacing goofball who could get away with anything. A superhero for whom, everything was a joke and who reminded everybody around him to take life a little less seriously.
No matter how desperate the situation, The Mask always allowed himself five minutes of fun in the face of an emergency.
This was in stark contrast to his alter ego Stanley Ipkiss (Sachin Sabnis in Hindi), a meek introvert who’s terrified of his dominating landlady and who always has a tough time getting attention from the opposite sex.
“How come the closest I get to female companionship is my landlady’s bad breath in my face?” he laments in one episode.
We feel you bro.
The Mask’s biggest strength (apart from its impeccable surreal humour) lay in the fact that even though a majority of its audience was comprised of kids, it didn’t treat them as such. Hence, it went about parodying everything in sight. From movie dialogues to movie stars.
Remember that one episode where it went on to parody action superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger?
“I’m not a hero, I’m just an actor. Not even classically trained, you know!” he’s quoted as saying; a direct jab to the actor’s initial days when a friend of his had openly proclaimed that Schwarzenegger had received classical training in acting.
Even if you didn’t get the millions of pop culture references the show made in each episode, the randomness of it all was engaging enough. Like a good show, it had jokes that made two people laugh for entirely different reasons. The Mask was unapologetic and raw to the core.
Another thing that made The Mask so funny was the anarchist approach of its protagonist.
The Mask’s abhorrence for law was evident by the numerous wedgies he gave to Lt. Mitch Kellaway throughout the series.
Yes, he would save the day. But he’d do so on his own terms. He won’t be pushed into doing it by anybody. And that fearlessness was what added an aspirational value to the series.
We all wanted to be like him at some point of time or the other. Someone who didn’t give a damn. Someone who never took things too seriously and yet, was always in control of the situation.
While the series had taken after the 1994 hit movie starring Jim Carrey, it managed to carve out a niche of its own. Thanks to its humour. There were unofficial crossovers with episodes where Ace Ventura and Beetlejuice came to meet The Mask; a novelty for cartoons in those times.
The Mask was also one of the few English shows that sounded equally funny in Hindi. Stanley Ipkiss as Sachin Sabnis and Detective Doyle as the Punjabi speaking Goyal seemed absolutely legit.
For a country waking up to globalisation, The Mask was one of the many cartoons that fueled the imagination of millions of 90s kids across the country.
Moreover, it was one of the last vestiges of the glorious era of Cartoon Network.
Thank you so much for the fond memories! Sssssmokin’ indeed.