My earliest recollection of "reading" Amar Chitra Katha goes back to a Saturday while in the finishing stage of LKG. With no one at home, they left me at a neighbour's with a copy of the ACK title Karna(title no 24?) that my brother had won as a prize in school. The experience was restricted to seeing the illustrations and recollecting whatever I could of my brother's narration to his friends( It was common practice for kids to gather round while one of them points to the illustrations while narrating the sequence of events).
But then, it was around that time that TINKLE was released(April 15 1980 if I remember right). It proved to be a spectacular success. Of course the other kid's mags like Champak, Children's World and Chandamama were very much in the forefront. But TINKLE with its essentially middle-class outlook held its own amidst the established titles from the stables of Indrajal Comics and the more elitist Disney Comics. Pretty soon, it was numero uno for the pampered middle-class kids. It celebrated its 100th issue around December 1986 - an enjoyable one where in the lead story all the TINKLE characters gather for the celebration with the usual stuff like Chamataka trying to nab Keechu/Meechu and Shambu scared to death at the slightest incident.
ACK made for more serious reading. But by this time, Children's World, Champak, Target and Chandamama were losing out in the popularity stakes. It was in late 1986 that ACK started their Mahabharata series(around 50 titles) and it was a runaway success that ensured a revival of sorts.
Tinkle regularly advertised the ACK releases, sometimes with snaps of the title covers. Thus most of the cover pages used to stay in memory. At times, the whole catalogue of ACK releases with their title numbers used to occupy the back cover.
An accident in 1988 kept me bed-ridden for a couple of months and that summer I had my biggest fill of the vintage ACK titles. Every week, my mother would get me atleast 2 or 3 bound volumes of 10 ACK titles from the local library. After a lonely and boring day at home, I would look forward to the evening with eager relish. Having been a Famous Five fan earlier, I was glad to find something related to our ancient history. Reading them in order and gazing longingly at the catalogue, I vaguely memorized the titles with their serial numbers - Prahlad(38?), Harsha(40?), Parasurama(69?), Ananda Math(84?), Birbal the Just(85?), Gandhari(190?), Amrapali(191?), Yayati(192?), Dara Shukoh and Aurangazeb(236?), Vivekananda(303?). I was especially thrilled to read How the Jackal ate the Elephant(title no 166?) and The Brahman and the Goat(title no 184?), whose cover pages regularly used to appear in the ads in the mid-80s.
My favorite titles were the ones on the Sikh war heroes and the extremists during our freedom struggle - ACK extolled the feats of valour of Bhagat Singh, Khudiram Bose, Bagha Jatin, Mangal Pandey. Abhimanyu and Indrajeet were my heroes in the epics. Of course when the Mahabharata series was in full swing, I had started accumulating used ballpen refills, rubber bands, twigs and manufactured a miniature Gandeeva. At nights, chess coins would serve as armies for the innumerable "battles". And needless to say, a particularly grotesque rakshash such as Hiranyakashipu would cause a disturbed night.
Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan ended on July 24 '88. Mahabharat started on Oct 2 the same year(just as the Seoul Olympics drew to a close). Undoubtedly, much of the episodes had lot of inputs from ACK. Meanwhile the French edition of ACK was started that year with Raja Desingh as the first release.
Overall ACK had an allround collection that ranged from saints, poets, reformers, warriors, folktales and mythology from our ancient history. Whereas the titles included pretty much everyone including Ghazni, British rulers were discreetly omitted.
To end, here are a couple of awesome nostalgia on the ads in TINKLE and ACK. Includes the infamous Ram and Shyam duo spreading the magic of Poppins worldwide. A notable omission is that BSA SLR comic strip where Kapil Dev borrows a girl's bicycle to pedal to the airport - "a match winning performance" - and later appears on TV after the Man of the Match saying "The credit goes to a sweet little friend", the girl responding with "Not me but my BSA SLR!"
Got the idea for this post which looking for one of the greatest songs ever composed. Narsinh Mehta(featured in ACK) wrote it and even though versions exist for a host of singers including Ariyakudi, Vani Jairam, MS, Unnikrishnan, I prefer Lata's version for its simplicity and earthliness. An awesome song encompassing the quintessence of Hinduism as practiced by its true ornaments like Gandhi, Shankara, Ramanuja, Bharati, all of whom lived out this song.Lyrics(courtesy ramanuja.org):
An archivist with varying interests
Blogs I read