Nirmala and Normala

 Author: Sowmya Rajendran, Niverdhita Subramaniam 

Illustrator:Sowmya Rajendran, Niverdhita Subramaniam

Published: 2014 by Penguin India 

No. of Pages: 208

Genre: Comedy

Subthemes: Parody on the portrayal of women in the Indian Cinema       

Timeline: Contemporary, 2010 to 2014



When the hero sings and dances to woo his ladylove in our movies, it’s mandatory that the random trespassers over there should also join him to impress her (well, even if it’s in Antarctica). The writer duo Sowmya Rajendran and Nivedita Subramaniam from Chennai have crafted a simple, humorous parody of the way women are portrayed in the Indian cinema. Published in 2014 by Penguin books, the effervescent humour comments on the prevalent stereotypes which cinema propagates in the lives of women in India.

Rich with references to move clichés, the plot starts with the twin sisters Nirmala and Normala getting separated at birth. The names here can be seen as satirical metaphors to how stereotypes often present in the emotionally turbulent Bollywood movies. For reasons we don’t know, the midwife who attended their birth put the first baby in a bamboo basket and set it afloat in a river and leaves the second one outside an orphanage. First one is discovered by a film maker called ‘GVM’, who names her Nirmala and raises her to be a heroine. The second one, brought up by a pair of nuns ‘Annamma’ and ‘Kochumary’ is named Normala and she’s the normal girl that you would see around you.

Well, the real story begins twenty years after this and both of them are college students now. The novel renders Nirmala’s life as reel life and Normala’s life as real life and follows an interesting pattern of juxtaposing both of their stories simultaneously. Adarsha Bhartiya Naari is a concept which has been sold for ages by the Indian cinema when it comes to the portrayal of female leads in our movies. They are always tender hearted, vulnerable to being wooed when chased and never question anything. The detailing of Nirmala’s character is developed like how a typical Indian film maker would conceive a female lead in a commercial movie and this unfailingly makes the reader burst out into a laugh. She’s being followed by a stranger Rahul who happens to give a lift to her on his bike and right after the bike ride Rahul proposes her (A guitar fell into his hands from the skies split open when he does this and yay the inevitable song sequence begins!)

Normala is also followed by a stranger and does crazy things to impress her but she’s bold enough to say no to him. She’s witty in her replies, speaks sense and yes, dislikes Chetan Bhagat! She eventually develops a love for her colleague Roobesh but is confused how to let him know about that.


Right from the costumes worn by both the characters to their different responses to similar situations all through the story, the symbols used are easily relatable to a movie fanatic as it refers to the worn out clichés existing in our movie industry. The hero with a guitar following his love all the way to America is an interesting reference to a 2008 Tamil movie with a cult fan following, ‘Varanam Ayiram’ and amusingly the film maker in the story who raises Nirmala is named ‘GVM’, which is the acronym by which the director of the movie ‘Varanam Ayiram’, Goutham Vasudev Menon is known as. There are much more simple and subtle references in this graphic novel, which makes it a humorous ride for all movie lovers.

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