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Significance of the title Funny Boy

Funny Boy is a coming of age novel written by Shyam Selvadurai. The story of Funny Boy deals with a child named Arjun Chelvaratnam or Arjie who is not a regular boy with ‘manly’ hobbies. Arjie loves to participate in the games played by his girl cousins like bride-bride game, where he gets to be dressed up as a bride in sari and makeup. He finds the ultimate joy in dressing up as the bride and playing with the girls. When Arjie is exposed in front of the elders while being draped in a sari, he gets scolded by his parents and relatives. He is forced to play the masculine games like cricket and football with the boys. However, he doesn’t enjoy playing those games as much as he enjoyed the bride-bride game.

Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai

The title of the novel is based upon its protagonist i.e. Arjie. The word ‘Funny’ not only refers to Arjie being humorous, but has a wider meaning behind it. Here, funny is referred to being socially unacceptable or ‘funny’. Funny is used in the sense of describing his sexuality as a joke. Arjie’s choices put him out as a queer boy, different from the rest. Being a homosexual in the Asian society was not taken well by the people in the 80’s. Therefore, when the family members notice him in a sari, they make fun of him, calling him a ‘funny boy’. This scene takes place in the first chapter ‘Pigs can’t Fly’. Later, in several other chapters also, Arjie is regarded as a Funny Boy by his father, and sent to a boarding school to develop manly qualities.

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Arjie’s parents want him to behave like a normal boy just like his siblings. However, his urges make him do things that are considered as inappropriate in the society. He enjoys a sexual encounter with another queer boy Shehan whom he meets in Victoria Academy. After this incident, Arjie fully recognizes his true self and his urges to get involved with the same gender. Even though at first he thinks if he had committed any sin, later he realizes that it is what he wants, and it is what makes him truly happy.

Shyam Selvadurai, who also belonged to this community has painted the character of Arjie mixing up the struggles that he might have faced himself. Therefore, the title of the novel has ironically been chosen in reference to the story.

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