One of my favourite Tennis star Roger Federer, has just created history by winning his 15th Grand Slam title. Thanks to Andy Roddick, for making this such an exciting match to watch. Certainly, a match to remember for all Tennis fans.
As with Comicology, our recent post on the Comics Bloggers making News, brought the comics friends from all walks of life to commemorate the achievements of some among us. I hope that we keep progressing through our unique medium of art with the same enthusiasm, and support from comics friends, in the process sharing and celebrating the 9th Art.
To celebrate this occasion, let’s look into one another famous brand from our own Indian genre, which enjoys a fair amount of fanfare among our very friends, the legendary Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), and the most popular title in their ranks, Mahabharata.
The name ACK derives from Hindi, one of the primary languages of India, which means Immortal (Amar) Picture Stories (Chitra Katha).
ACK is known for inspiring a generation of readers through their retelling of mythological stories in picture format, and doing it professionally. Most of the mythological stories and decorated Leaders of India, as I still remember from my childhood, were inspired by what I envisioned through ACK’s picture based stories.
As mentioned during our Tinkle debut post, ACK was the first venture started by the great Anant Pai, known fondly as Uncle Pai. Pai was born on 17 Sep 1929, in Karkala, Karnataka, the Southern Indian state. Even though his major in college was Chemical Engineering, he always dreamt to publish comics for kids, which he incidentally started pursuing right after his studies.
Pai eventually co-founded ACK, along with India Book House (IBH), in 1967. From then on, he went from strength to strength, by starting the county’s first-ever comics and cartoon syndicate, in the form of Rang Rekha Features in 1969; and then the legendary Tinkle, the children's magazines in 1980, which is still issued monthly, with Mr.Pai serving as the honorary editor.
ACK’s current image of Indian Authentic stories, was not to be seen in the initial 10 editions (which were printed in multiple languages), when it exclusively printed comic albums licensed from Disney, just like many other comic companies in India (For others like LM Comics, Chandamama Classics & Cartoons, who followed the same trend, refer to the page here). The cover-arts seem to have been drawn locally, which could have been done using the originals as samples.
Issue #11, was the landmark title, where ACK produced a comic album on its own, under the supervision of Anant Pai, who also wrote the script. The title was Krishna, a godly figure from the Hindu Mythology. For many ACK fans, they consider this title as the real number 1 issue of ACK, as that was the trendsetter, which saw it spanning over decades of dominance over Comics industry in India, eventually crossing the 90 million copies sales for the first-time ever. There is an interesting news about this very issue’s multiple versions printed by ACK, to read more about it, refer to this post on HMI blog.
The original run of ACK lasted until 1991, eventually wrapping up with the Issue #436, which featured a story about India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. This was the time when the TV industry was booming, and magazines and children classics, saw a erosion of sales. Prompted by this change of ACK authorities, decided to concentrate on reprinting their legendary series, and avoid adding any more fresh titles to their list.
So from 1991 to 2008, saw the second run of ACK titles which were numbered from #501 (which was incidentally the same title as, Issue #11 Krishna), to #744, this time issued in better paper quality and thick cover. Some 5 issues from this set consisted brand new titles. Most notable additions out of them were for Tatas, Kalpana Chawla, and Ram Charit Manas.
A complete list of all the ACK titles, published in their entire run along with special issues, could be found on John Thompson’s personal webpage. For someone who is not Indian, his passion towards cataloguing his personal collection, is unseen even among Desi comics fans. Kudos to his extensive effort. (Thanks to Prabhat, for referring to his site)
Just like Tinkle, ACK was also taken over by the newly formed ACK Media Ltd. in 2007, after which we only see the reprint titles from ACK time and again. As it stands, the chance of them producing new titles looks remote, as their current concentration seems to be on digitizing their brand through Mobile Games, Digital Comics, and few animated feature films.
One of the key reasons of ACK’s success was the pool of Artists, whom they had in their famed stable. The likes of Ashok Dongre, CM Vitankar, Souren Roy, MN Nangare, Jeffrey Fowler, VB Halbe combined with the variety of script writers like Lakshmi Lal, Yagya Sharma, Manoj Das, Rajendra Sanjay, GL Chandiramani, Shakuntala Jagannathan, Kamala Chandrakant, Rupa Gupta, Debrani Mitra, GR Naik, Louis Fernandes, Pradip Paul, Margie Sastry, to set the standards for which ACK is renowned over, even today.
Most notably, ACK showcased three of the best Indian Artists to the world, in the form of Ram Waeerkar, Pratap Mulik, and Dilip Kadam. Even though Ram Waeerkar, was the most talented and gifted artist among the three, the chance to be the artist for ACK’s biggest series went to another from the trio. Let’s look more about him and the series, to know more.
ACK’s Mahabharata Epic Series: It’s pretty hard to pick and choose which among the ACK’s line-up is the best one, but there is no doubt in choosing the longest ever series to have been produced by them in the form of Mahabharata. One of the two great epics epics from Indian mythology (the other being Ramayana), which was published over a 42 issue run on ACK.
It was an instance success, and was the crown jewel in ACK’s line-up, making eager fans to expect it month after month, which was published on an alternative title schedule. The run started with Issue #329, which spoke of Veda Vyasa, who is credited to have dictated the entire Mahabharata epic to Ganesha, as per the Hinduism beliefs. The series was concluded with the 42nd comic album, in Issue #411, thus spanning over for a significant run over years on ACK’s publication history. It is said that the series was originally planned for 60 albums, but it could have been cut short to 42, due to increased work-load or anxiety to see the series completion.
Dilip Kadam was chosen as the only artist to the entire series, which added a semblance of standard to the artwork. Kadam did lack the classic art style of Waerkar, but he was unique on his own rights. Hi artwork was simple, but yet authoritative, which was instrumental in a series which demanded quick monthly instalments, for a prolonged period.
Moreover, Dilip Kadam, had some real talent to produce historical scenarios with a lively effect. I could still not forget his rendition of Lokmanya Tilak in one of the ACK titles, which I read during my childhood. I even won a low level art competition at the school, by imitating one of his panels. Such was the impact, it left on the young minds, which could not be expressed in mere words. So, it was no surprise that Kadam was chosen as the chief artist for Mahabharata series.
Kadam was assisted in this mega project by a team of scriptwriters like Kamala Chandrakanth, Subba Rao, Nedungadi, Yagya Sharma, Lopamudra, Mohan Swaminathan, Shubha Kandhekar, Margie Sastry. So while the script-writers took turns to contribute in this mega series, Kadam continued to draw then uninterrupted, which shows his dedicated work towards making the series a landmark venture.
Look at some of the Intro Scenes of this Mahabharata series, and witness Kadam’s work yourself.
One of the attractions of the Mahabharata epic is the intrigued detail at which the battlefield of Kurukshetra was recited, which is considered the biggest war of the world, as per Hindu mythology. So, it was an enormous task to picture them on paper, and I believe Kadam did an incredible work, a sample of which could be highlighted from this piece of panel, where the formations of Kaurava’s, the antagonists' of Mahabharata, are explained in detail.
It’s sorry to state that, I could not add a picture of Kadam to this post, as it is untraceable anywhere on net. Kadam owns a commercial art unit at Pune, India called Trishul Comico Art, where he is assisted by his sons. They don’t have an Internet presence either, thus making the task even more harder. This is a common scenario among Indian creators (especially from the yester-year genre), many of whom are unaware about the riches on offer through the web, and as a result often remain untraceable.
One of the reasons, why I am looking forward to Toonfactory’s Chitrakathaa project, which hopes to bridge this barrier.
Those who want own this biggest comic series released in India, need not go anywhere to locate them hard, and toil at old bookshops, as the ACK’s policy of rerunning their releases with timely reprints, means that this series is available in a brand new format, you could ever hope for.
Contrary to ACK’s reprint policy, the reprints of Mahabharata series were always made available only on collected format.
The late 1980s saw the first of them with a 7 Volume Library edition collecting the 42 issues, in 6 issues each.
Not only that, they also printed another collected format in 1998, this time in an hard-bounded 3 volume edition.
The collection was a huge-sell-out, and prompted a reprint in December 2007, in a newer format, which saw the hard-bound getting even better, with a change in the cover-arts for two other volumes, which reused the version from the original 42 album edition.
Here are the covers of the 3 Hard bound volumes, along with their respective list of 14 titles collected in each of them, for your preview. While the 2nd Volume cover is a re-used from the 42 individual album covers drawn by Dilip Kadam, the rest two were newly drawn, by other artists, which is clearly noticeable from the style.
Overall, my only complaints with this package is that the publishers, didn’t add any dedicated pages for the creators behind this incredible series. Everyone knows about Uncle Pai, but not many knew of the numerous script writers and the greatest Artist in Dilip Kadam. It would have been a perfect tribute to the collection, but obviously this seems to be a neglected section often among Indian Comics publishers.
One another miss in the collection, was that the publishers chose not to publish the 42 incredibly drawn covers which decorated the individual albums. Indian publishers should learn from the foreign publications, which often include the original editions cover as an extra feature in any collected editions. I know that it will add up to the cost of a collected issue, but it’s worth the price to see the reprint of these covers, which are quite hard to find at old book shops at present.
I had been eyeing this collectors items for the last couple of years, to add to my collection. The only thing which was keeping me away was the price. The new hard-bound collection of A4 Size is priced at INR 1100. The ACK Media store does give you a 10% discount, but the shipping cost makes up for it.
I finally got a 10% discount in the recent concluded Chennai Book Fair, only to see that it was later available on a 25% discount. Nevertheless, the money spent on this a worthy one. And I am now geared towards completing my Mahabharata individual titles. Can’t miss those wonderfully drawn cover-arts, by Dilip Kadam. If this post doesn’t tempt, to own this collectors piece, then have a look at those hard-bounds for yourself, and make your choice :).
Poonthalir Amar Chitra Katha (PACK): In South India, Poonthalir an erstwhile children’s magazine (which was started in the late 70s, and had a popular run during 80s), had also licensed a regional deal with ACK, and were regularly publishing their line-up of titles translated into Tamil. The translations were performed by the incredibly talented children’s writer of that time, late VK Murthy, more famously known among fans under his penname Vaandumaama. Vaandumaama is always credited to have a pulse of children’s mindsets and interests, and was very popular among them with his wonderfully written articles and translated stories.
Here are few covers from the series, which were also published in alternative schedule, much like ACK (once every month, while the PACK/ACK series was published fortnightly):
Look at the introduction to this series, from the very words of Vaandumaama, and also an advertisement which talks about PACK and Poonthalir as the two flagship children magazines from their publisher Paico, with subscription details for the same (as it was in 1985).
It is said the PACK, was continued until the Mahabharata series was completed, before closing shops.
Needless to say Poonthalir and its sister publications were one of the chief contributors to a generation of Tamil children and young adults during 80’s, which were instrumental in them learning our culture and heritage with innovative articles and artwork. We will learn more about Poonthalir and their other ventures in detail, soon at Comicology.
With that we have reached the end of the post for today, and hope you liked them as much as I did writing it. Have a Happy Weekend Ahead Comikers, and I will meet you all again with another post pretty soon. Adios Amigos !!