Review by Ian Keogh
Ali tends to take the whole weight of the world on his shoulders, and isn’t happy with his life. His father doesn’t appreciate his artistic inclinations, wanting him employed in the family corner shop, and he’s worried he won’t like the girl it’s been arranged he marry. That’s before his brother falls through the shop floor and a whole weird world is discovered beneath. Perhaps Ali’s right to be a little concerned as he’s reawakened a vengeful threat from thousands of years ago, along with a possible saviour, the downside being the possible saviour is the immortal consort of Ali’s wife to be. And never mind the state the shop’s been left in after all that.
There’s often been a comedy element to Grant Morrison’s work, frequently dark or bleak in form, and occasionally sardonic irony, but even when obvious it’s flown over the heads of some readers. However, there’s no mistaking Vimanarama as a sitcom. It’s an extremely imaginative sitcom with action thriller elements, but the responses of the characters and the comedy timing place it squarely as a sitcom. Given the stage Morrison sets, any halfway decent artist could sell the characters and the jokes, but Philip Bond is a lot better than that, and there’s a joyful expression about the jokes and the cast. He charms from an opening sequence of Ali cycling down a Bradford street with a bunch of playing girls posed as if in a Bollywood dance routine. A later sequence features Morrison’s more familiar surreality, and Bond’s just as effective with that.
Given their ridiculously over the top nature it may seem there’s a cultural insensitivity about the Ultrahadeen, the heroes Morrison’s created based on a vague form of Pakistani culture. The further one reads, though, the further their serene and benign wisdom seeps through. That’s fitted among the belly laughs Morrison generates via Ali and his family, and their continuing helplessness. They’re fallible and uncertain, but do the right thing anyway. It’s joyful, funny and as Morrison notes, it is written.
For a fair while Vimanarama was a forgotten gem in the Morrison back catalogue, but in 2016 it was combined with another Morrison and Bond collaboration as the deluxe hardcover Kill Your Boyfriend/Vimanarama.