Book Review: Amar Chitra Katha

A chance telephone conversation with a friend of my childhood days reminded me of this timeless classic I had forgotten about... Amar Chitra Katha, the comic collection that was my passion during my childhood days. Those days I would consider trips to the railway station to be a joy- not because we were going on a journey, or I was getting an outing - but because I would get to purchase a couple of titles of Amar Chitra Katha comics. If my Dad was in an expansive mood, I might even get to treat myself to more than 2! It was always an occasion for me - I would get to read something on a priority, I would get to be the first to touch and open it! My brother would have to wait for his turn...

The comic book series is unique since it carries tales of Indian Culture, History, Fables, Religion, Humour, Biographies and Heritage, sporting titles like the ones below:






In retrospect, I now realise that I learnt a lot from the Amar Chitra Katha Comic Series. I learnt about Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Akbar, Birbal, Prithviraj Chauhan, Hakka and Bakka, Subhash Chandra Bose, Karna, Vikramaditya, Panchatantra, Banda Bahadur, Ranjit Singh, Ananda Math, Krishna and Rukmini, Ancestors of Rama, The Gita, Vivekanand, Shahjahan, Krishnadev Raya, Amar Singh Rathore, Hari Singh Nalwa etc first from the epic comic series. I am listing merely the topics that I recall reading. The complete list can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Amar_Chitra_Katha_comics

It really is a wonderful, fun way to keep our children updated about our country. It is a gift, a comic from their point of view, something that they can read at will without parents screaming at them. And I dont see any issue with my kid reading something like the Amar Chitra Katha. It  imparts some knowledge to them, imbibes some values, some learning in a fun way. In later years, it will become a cherished memory for them... a very good value proposition, if you will. 

It is a great pity that more book stores do not stock these comics. I am pretty sure that if prominently displayed, the retail off-take of these comics will be there. Secondly, they are not too heavy on the pocket - Rs. 30 for a single unit., Rs. 75 for 3 in 1 or thereabouts. In my childhood it was unimaginable that a book store does not have stock of an Amar Chitra Katha Comic. They were omnipresent - I know since whenever we visited a book store I would always spot and purchase a comic. For very Phantom and Mandrake that we purchased, there were several ACK's! But in a modern bookstore, comics are a rarity. Even the modern comics like archies are a thing of the past, it seems. You have to hunt for them. Further, I have not noted people asking for comics to gift their children either. It is always a toy, or a visit to a movie or a pizza parlour. Video Games have usurped the position enjoyed by comics... which is a great pity. Even Phantom and Mandrake were an escape into a fantasy world, and were a treat.  The world - children and parents alike - seemed to have moved on. Why blame anyone else? I too have gifted everything to kids even in birthdays- but never a comic. But I feel that our children are missing something. And with regards to Amar Chitra Katha, they have an added value addition faeture attached to them as well. Perhaps the advent of television and the attendant exposure to stories in the form of cartoons have taken the place of the educational comics... 


This epic comic series was the brain child of Mr Anant Pai.who started them in an attempt to teach Indian children about their cultural heritage. Mr Anant, popularly known an Uncle Pai, was an Chemical Technologist from what is now UDCT, and a dual degree holder from the University of Bombay. 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? It was this instance that triggered a chain of events that lead to the Amar Chitra Katha Series. It is still one of the largest selling comic book series in India,with 90 million copies being sold in 20 languages.  


It is heartening to note that Amar Chitra Katha has noted the change in times and has modernized its formats, (http://www.amarchitrakatha.com/) and has evolved over time. It is now available as a digital media  for solutions ranging from Online Access to Mobile Phones. 

However, I will still miss the old format - the paperback comic. Not that they aren't avalable - they are, in some stores, and in abundance. So, in between the digital formats, hidden somewhere between my sons' Pogo Time and www.pogo.tv and related surfings, I shall strive to ensure that a copy of Amar Chitra Katha Comic lands in his hands... 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

PK, The Movie : One Of The Best...

Pink Movie - Asking The Right Questions Of The Man!