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Children in Indian English-medium schools were learning Greek mythology, but Pai feared they were not learning Indian mythology — and he wanted to rectify this with his comics. To date, Amar Chitra Katha boasts over titles and sales of more than 90 million issues, and has reached an audience of several genera- tions of Indians within the Indian subcontinent and around the world. The majority of these readers have been English-speaking, middle-class, upper-caste Hindu boys and girls.
For this substantial segment of the Indian population from the late s to today — a segment easily numbering in the tens of millions — these comics have been incredibly important to the formation of their identities as Indians and as Hindus. Scholarship on Amar Chitra Katha As the dominant comic book series in India for over four decades, Amar Chitra Katha has been the focus of the scholarship on Indian comics.
Pritchett concludes that despite its slogans to the contrary, Amar Chitra Katha does not represent and will not appeal to all Indians: Readers who happen to be of the wrong gender, the wrong politics, or the wrong religion will find themselves only scantily represented in what is ultimately a vision of the future at least as much as of the past.
He argues that earlier hagiographies of these poet-saints were recast in the comics in keeping with the ideology of the Hindu right. However, both Pritchett and Hawley argue that the series promotes national integration in a way that is substantively aligned with the ideology of Hindu nationalism.
Following Pritchett and Hawley, other scholars contributed further short analyses of Amar Chitra Katha during the next decade, from to One promi- nent theme continued to be the relationship between Hinduism and Indian nationality, with the conclusion repeatedly being drawn that this series presents a concept of Indian- ness that is Hindu at its core, to the neglect of Muslims and other Indian religious com- munities.
She comments, While I acquired tidbits of knowledge about each of the Mughal emperors, a few Sufi mystics, and some Sikh gurus, I learned a lot more about Hindu deities, devotees, saints, mythology, and historical characters. John Lent provides a comprehensive overview of the criticism the series has received in the Indian press for its portrayals of women, the caste system, and religious communalism.
He concludes on an apologetic note, writing that Pai was faced with too many unenviable obstacles — keeping one eye on scholarship and education, another on selling his comics; promoting national integration in a setting of violently-opposing factions, while trying to be fair to all; making Amar Chitra Katha interesting and emotional, yet objective. Chandra notes that Amar Chitra Katha comics were initially marketed toward parents of middle-class school-age children, with advertisements for lunchbox foodstuffs like Parle biscuits appearing in the s.
Throughout the s, India Book House increasingly marketed the comics to the global Indian diaspora. She also notes that throughout the s as Hindu nationalism was on the rise, this series was marketed to various minorities within India under the banner of national integration, with the exception of Muslims. Discussing the production of titles featuring Sikh heroes, Chandra writes, the idea was to show the Sikh as part of the Hindu family, and anti-Muslim to boot.
This pro- ject of co-option was not reserved for the Sikhs alone, but involved diverse minority communities such as the Buddhists, Jains, Dalits, in fact everybody except the Muslims. However, after many conversations with his artists and authors, and with input from readers, he decided to remake the title. My examination of this title focuses on how the Sanskrit Devi Mahatmya scripture is translated into a mixed-medium combining text and image, and on the debates that arose about goddess Durga in the process.
In other chapters, I focused on how the mythological template was applied to new cat- egories of Indian heroes. This resulted in the addition of issues featuring martial historical queens like Rani Durgavati and the Rani of Jhansi. Yet this historical heroine overlaps with the mythological in the emphasis on ultimate sacrifice in their stories: the mythological hero- ine is willing to sacrifice her life for her husband; the historical heroine for her country.
Another debate occurred over the depiction of Indian Muslims. When the mythological template was first applied to historical figures, medieval Hindu kings like Shivaji and Rana Pratap were cast as heroes while medieval Muslims were cast as villains.
This sparked a range of debate among producers and consumers about the place of Muslims in Indian history, and ultimately resulted in the creation of a handful of titles featuring Mughal Muslim rulers as heroes. However, the historical villain remained typecast as an iconoclastic Muslim. Yet another debate occurred over the depiction of Mahatma Gan- dhi, who defied the successful comic book formula focused on Indian heroes who encounter their foes, be they mythological demons or medieval Muslim kings or colonial British officers; engage them in battle; and either emerge victorious or die bravely.
Unlike Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, and other colonial-era freedom fighters, Gandhi — who famously advocated nonviolent resistance of British rule — did not easily fit into the heroic comic book template and, indeed, is not looked upon as a hero by many Indians today. First, I argue that these comics do not just entail stories about the sacred; for many Hindu readers the comics are sacred. Repeatedly, Hindus credited Amar Chitra Katha with bringing mythology to life through the visual representation of the Hindu pantheon.
Many adults could describe in detail specific images of Hindu gods that still resonate with them from the comics they read as children. A handful confessed that during their puja or ritual worship, they sometimes envision the deity as depicted in the comics.
For Hindus, darshan, seeing the gods, is the focus of ritual activity. Pai initially insisted that his artists should not depict the gods gazing directly at the reader on the comic book covers, so that the darshanic exchange of glances cannot occur.
He took this precaution because he was aware that many of his artists were not following the ritual prescriptions that govern the making of Hindu religious images, and he did not want to offend orthodox Hindus. However, within the pages of Amar Chitra Katha numerous panels contain images that allow for a darshanic experience.
These Indian comics, therefore, are notably different from their global counterparts because they entail a frontal, darshanic gaze that enables them to become part of the spectrum of the sacred for their Hindu readers. Second, I address the gap in scholarship that has paid scant attention to Amar Chitra Katha as a mixed medium entailing both text and image.
Although the comic book is a 20th-century western medium, many of the images, subjects, and stories featured in this series hearken back to the visual and tex- tual vocabularies of the media circulating in lateth-century colonial India.
Again, this message was propagated through popular visual media including posters, statues, and plays. And through this comic series, these images, subjects, and stories con- tinue to influence new generations and new Indian media. Although I cannot provide a comprehensive history of Indian comics here, I can note some important developments.
One of the first new series to arise at this time was again spearheaded by Anant Pai and published by India Book House. Seeking to capture readers 8 years old and younger who would grow into Amar Chitra Katha, Pai created a series called Tinkle that debuted in Featuring several short, fictive stories in each issue and a recurring cast of comical Indian characters including Suppandi and Shikari Shambu, this monthly comic has been quite successful.
Many of its stories are written and submitted by readers, who eagerly await each issue to see if their story will appear. These brothers grew up reading Amar Chitra Katha and Indrajal, but were left wanting something more: super- heroes with real superpowers who were also ethnically and geographically Indian Kumar They also wanted their comics to be accessible to the masses in northern India, and thus scripted them in Hindi, not English.
While modeled on Amar Chitra Katha in their choice of subject matter and their fusion of Hinduism and Indianness, these titles stand apart visually in that they are not proper comic books despite their marketing , having no combination of text and image in the form of panels, dialog balloons, and nar- rative text boxes, but are instead illustrated story books with the pictures occupying the top half of each page and the narrative text occupying the bottom half.
By the late s, comics faced declining sales as the market shrank and continued to do so into the s. Some companies, like Amar Chitra Katha, weathered the storm; others folded. Some, like the Chitra Kathayain series published by New Delhi-based Rohan Book Com- pany, have modeled their stories and images on Amar Chitra Katha, recreating titles with the same mythological and historical Indian heroes but marketing them at a cheaper price.
Others have arisen with a new vision of the Indian hero. One example is Vivalok Comics, which the Viveka Foundation began publishing in Textually, this issue is indebted to local oral culture. Visually, as well, the artists have drawn inspiration from local visual arts in the use of earthy colors, the depiction of traditional dress, and references to the drums and dances of the Santhals.
Vivalok Comics stands apart from Amar Chitra Katha in present- ing a pluralistic society featuring Hindu and Muslim, high-caste and low-caste, male and female, rural and urban Indian heroes; in focusing on local geographies rather than state and nation; in featuring multiple artistic styles inspired by indigenous visual traditions rather than a uniform visual aesthetic; and in telling regional stories not found in pan-Indian epics or pan-Hindu scriptures.
Other Indian series that have arisen in the past decade more typically remain indebted to Amar Chitra Katha in their selection of heroes and stories. Visually updated for the current generation, the Hindu gods are transformed from the smooth-limbed adolescents of the first Amar Chitra Katha titles into manly superheroes with bulging muscles. Created by Alex Ross, who is best known for his cover art for Marvel and DC Comics, this cover presents Rama staring intently at the object of his aim as he leaps into the air, contorting his muscles in a dynamic battle pose.
The background is com- posed of hundreds of his allied warriors, who fly through the air in attack mode, and who are all colored a fiery yellow-red. Ram Waeerkar, the legendary Tinkle artist gave form to Suppandi. Currently, his daughter, Archana Amberkar, illustrates the strip.
Meet the Cool Cast Maddy: It boasts of a large fan following and beloved characters that include such household names as Suppandi, Shikari Shambu and Tantri the Mantri. Get A Copy. Paperback , 72 pages.
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Sort order. Its a amazing book. Lot of comedys by suppandi. View 1 comment.
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