Amar Chitra Katha

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Amar Chitra Katha
The logo
Publication information
PublisherAmar Chitra Katha Pvt. Ltd.
Publication date1967
No. of issues1029
Creative team
Written byVarious
Artist(s)Various

Amar Chitra Katha (ACK, "Immortal Picture Stories"), is an Indian publisher of graphic novels based on biographies, religious figures and cultural stories. The company was founded in 1967 by Anant Pai.

Creation and creators[edit]

The comic series was started by Anant Pai in an attempt to teach Indian children about their cultural heritage. He was shocked that Indian students could answer questions on Greek and Roman mythology, but were ignorant of their own history, mythology and folklore. It so happened that a quiz contest aired on Doordarshan in February 1967, in which participants could easily answer questions pertaining to Greek mythology, but were unable to reply to the question "In the Ramayana, who was Rama's mother?".[1][2]

The above is an oft-told story of how ACK was founded beginning with 'Uncle Pai', in Mumbai in 1967. However, Outlook magazine has this article about the genesis of this popular comic series: The idea and proposal for Amar Chitra Katha was made by a Bangalore book salesman called G.K. Ananthram which led to the first Amar Chitra Katha comics being produced in 1965—in Kannada, not English. "The English ACK titles begin from number eleven because the first ten were in Kannada," clarifies Ananthram. To Ananthram's satisfaction, the 1965 Kannada ACK venture was a great commercial success which led to Mirchandani in the head office in Mumbai pursuing the Amar Chitra Katha idea in English diligently. "They brought in Anant Pai" says Ananthram. "And he built a wonderful team and a great brand."[3] By the late 1970s, it was selling 5 million copies a year and had a peak circulation of about 700,000 a month. India Book House started to bring out at least one comic book a month by 1975, and sometimes as many as three. While Pai initially wrote the first few stories himself, he soon hired a core team of writers and editors, which included Sub Rao, Luis Fernandes and Kamala Chandrakant, who were responsible for the attempt at authenticity and balanced portrayal of history in comic books that became the hallmark of Amar Chitra Katha.[4] Writers like Margie Sastry, Debrani Mitra and C.R Sharma also joined the creative team of Amar Chitra Katha, with Anant Pai taking on the role of editor and co-writer on most scripts. The notable illustrators were Ram Waeerkar, who illustrated the very first issue of Amar Chitra Katha, Krishna, Dilip Kadam, C. M. Vitankar, Sanjeev Waeerkar, Souren Roy, C.D Rane, Ashok Dongre, V.B. Halbe, Jeffrey Fowler, Pratap Mullick and Yusuf Lien aka Yusuf Bangalorewala.[5]

Criticism[edit]

American scholar Jeremy Stoll has noted that, "As the earliest indigenous comic books in India, the Amar Chitra Katha series set a strong precedent, one which has dictated comics content and style for decades since". On the other hand, he noted the series' promotion of "nationalism", and lamented that "as the most widely published and read Indian comics, books from this series are the ones that most scholars [of Indian comics] have focused upon, to the detriment of understanding the wider context of India’s comics, storytelling, and visual cultures".[6]

Criticism of the Amar Chitra Katha comics has largely centered around two core issues: the anti-communist ideology and the portrayal of minorities.[7][8] Controversies around religious and cultural portrayals were prominent, as well[7]

Women were supposedly portrayed in a domestic context and portrayals were hyper-sexualised.[7] The apparent glorification of Sati across a series of story-lines were highly controversial, too.[7] Acclaimed book critic Nilanjana Roy notes many stories of the series to reflect and reinforce the patriarchal stereotypes prevalent in mainstream Indian ethos.[9]

Many of the stories according to some commentators promoted Brahmanical superiority and Hindu Nationalism.[7][10][11][12][13]

The stories have often been in the past criticised as distorted depictions of history.[14] Another criticism is that comic books, by their very nature, do not reflect the richness and complexity of the oral tradition of Indian mythology in which multiple versions of a story can co-exist simultaneously.[15]

Response[edit]

The producers and writers did not initially respond to the criticisms, as valid enough for they argued that a historical story ought to be presented without any factual distortion.The publisher has released an all new series focusing on personalities belonging from the Muslim community like Razia sultan, Bacha Khan, renowned ornithologist Salim Ali and more.[10]Books on Mughal emperors like Babur, Shajahan, Jahangir and Akbar have been published depicting their lives.

The editors are now paying due effort in understanding different version of the mythological stories and accommodating them into regional versions too. The new editions have been released featuring regional folktales and local heroes reflecting regional diversity of the country like Lachit Borphukan, the Assamese leader who fought the Mughals. The editors have tried to pay close attention to the changing sensitivities of the people and trying to accommodate the diversity of story telling by giving equal importance to regional versions.[16]

The portrayals of light-browns, dark-brown skinned heroes like Ram, Krishna are among the most prominent titles covered in Amar Chitra Katha. Also, dark skinned servants and subservient women have been swapped for a more neutral skin tone and women who are active influencers in the stories like Ahilyabai Holkar.[10]

Films[edit]

The following films were produced by Amar Chitra Katha under ACK Animation Studios banner

Year Film Director Notes
2011 Tripura – The Three Cities of Maya Chetan Sharma TV Movie
Co-produced with Animagic
2012 Sons of Ram Kushal Ruia Co-produced with Maya Digital Studios and Cartoon Network India

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Now, Amar Chitra Katha gets even younger Vijay Singh, TNN, The Times of India, 16 October 2009.
  2. ^ The World of Amar Chitra Katha Media and the Transformation of Religion in South Asia, by Lawrence A Babb, Susan S. Wadley. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1998. ISBN 81-208-1453-3. Chapt. 4, p. 76-86.
  3. ^ A Pandit Had A Dream ... Outlook India Magazine, 21 March 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2011
  4. ^ Rao, Aruna (2001). "From Self-Knowledge to Super Heroes: The Story of Indian Comics". In John A. Lent (ed.). Illustrating Asia: Comics, Humor Magazines, and Picture Books. University of Hawaii Press. p. 37–63. ISBN 978-0-8248-2471-6. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  5. ^ For a short biography of Anant Pai, Kamala Chandrakant, Subba Rao, Margie Sastry, Ram Waeerkar, Pratap Mulick, see Norbert Barth, "India Book House and Amar Chitra Katha (1970–2002)", Wuerzburg 2008, p.47-59.
  6. ^ Jeremy Stoll, "A Creator's History of the Comics Medium in India", International Journal of Comic Art 15(1), 1–28 (1, 3).
  7. ^ a b c d e Rao, Aruna (2001). "From Self-Knowledge to Super Heroes: The Story of Indian Comics". In John A. Lent (ed.). Illustrating Asia: Comics, Humor Magazines, and Picture Books. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 37–63. ISBN 978-0-8248-2471-6. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  8. ^ Kumar, Rahul (21 August 2019). "A Brief History of Hindi Comics in India: Amar Chitra Katha, Raj Comics and the Internet". Sahapedia. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  9. ^ Roy, Nilanjana S. (2 March 2011). "Uncle Pai and the Amar Chitra Katha universe". Business Standard.
  10. ^ a b c Benegal, Gautam (10 June 2007). "The undying world of Amar Chitra Katha". DNA. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  11. ^ McLain, Karline (2009). India's Immortal Comic Books: Gods, Kings, and Other Heroes. Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253220523.
  12. ^ Sreenivasan, Ramya (2007). The Many Lives of a Rajput Queen: Heroic Pasts in India, c. 1500-1900. University of Washington Press. ISBN 9780295987323. JSTOR j.ctvcwn22m.
  13. ^ Khanduri, Ritu G. (22 December 2010). "Comicology: comic books as culture in India". Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. 1 (2): 171–191. doi:10.1080/21504857.2010.528641. ISSN 2150-4857.
  14. ^ John Stratton Hawley (1998). "The Saints Subdued: Domestic Virtue and National Integration in Amar Chitra Katha". In Lawrence A Babb & Susan S. Wadley (ed.). Media and the Transformation of Religion in South Asia. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 107–. ISBN 978-81-208-1453-0.
  15. ^ Steven E. Lindquist (2011). Religion and Identity in South Asia and Beyond: Essays in Honor of Patrick Olivelle. Anthem Press. p. 385. ISBN 978-0-85728-790-8.
  16. ^ David, Priti (16 December 2017). "And now, a dapper Ravana: Amar Chitra Katha undergoes makeover". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 16 January 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Love revives Indian comics After a break of 4 years, Amar Chitra Katha launches a new title on Mother Teresa: Little Acts of Love, on 26 August 2010, to celebrate the Mother's 100th birth anniversary.

External links[edit]