The Talkative Man speaks
<--Added on 8/22/08 for migration to TPB -->
Sunday, August 06, 2006
  The world of Amar Chitra Katha
A collage of some of my favorite ACK titles. Click on the pics for a bigger view.



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!"

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*****

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.

Listen to Vaishnav Jan To

Lyrics(courtesy ramanuja.org):
Vaishnav jan to tene kahiye je [One who is a vaishnav]
PeeD paraayi jaaNe re [Knows the pain of others]
Par-dukhkhe upkaar kare toye [Does good to others, esp. to those ones who are in misery]
Man abhimaan na aaNe re [Does not let pride enter his mind]

SakaL lok maan sahune vande [A Vaishnav, Tolerates and praises the the entire world]
Nindaa na kare keni re [Does not say bad things about anyone]
Vaach kaachh man nishchaL raakhe [Keeps his/her words, actions and thoughts pure]
Dhan-dhan janani teni re [O Vaishnav, your mother is blessed (dhanya-dhanya)]

Sam-drishti ne trishna tyaagi [A Vaishnav sees everything equally, rejects greed and avarice]
Par-stree jene maat re [Considers some one else's wife/daughter as his mother]
Jivha thaki asatya na bole
[The tongue may get tired, but will never speak lies]
Par-dhan nav jhaalee haath re
[Does not even touch someone else's property]

Moh-maaya vyaape nahi jene [A Vaishnav does not succumb to worldly attachments]
DriDh vairaagya jena man maan re [Who has devoted himself to stauch detachment to worldly pleasures]
Ram naam shoon taaLi laagi
[Who has been edicted to the elixir coming by the name of Ram]
SakaL tirath tena tan maan re
[For whom all the religious sites are in the mind]

VaN-lobhi ne kapaT-rahit chhe [Who has no greed and deceit]
Kaam-krodh nivaarya re
[Who has renounced lust of all types and anger]
BhaNe Narsaiyyo tenun darshan karta [The poet Narsinh will like to see such a person]
KuL ekoter taarya re
[By whose virtue, the entire family gets salvation]
 
Comments:
hey! nice blog....have reader amar chitra long time ago...cant remember in which language though. And I never met carl lewis before...the ultimate athletic legend.
 
Amar Chitra Katha was a favourite of mine too.

And thanks for the lyrics. An enduring song. I'm told Mahatma Gandhi was moved to tears on hearing MS Subbulakshmi's rendition.
 
idhellam vada mozhi thinithal. And the MS is highly over rated.
 
your post took me back to the time when my children's demand for books was at its peak.i heartily encouraged them to read very much like your mother.but nowadays i find reading habits on the wane.or is it just my imagination?i go thro' your blog and enjoy your posts.'Date with a Chennai girl' had me splitting with laughter.
 
interesting post
 
"Nadamadum noolaga catelogueh"....your memory amazes me...and a great post.
Amar Chitra Katha was my favourite too...
and their Mahabahrat series was phenomenal...What I did specifically like about AKC was that the series covered stories and people from all parts of the country...
I remember reading issues on Manonmaniam, Kannapar, Veeran velu Thampi, Senapati Bapat, Shankar Dev from Assam etc...In some sense it was Pan Indian....
 
ACK is a great indian institution. Anant Pai deserves a high national honour which unfortunately does not seem to be coming any day soon. Mr.Pai is a genius in my view. The Sikh Gurus series were a favourite of mine too - I felt a deep sense of respect @ the sacrifices of Guru Tegh Bahadur and subconsciously, I think, the lingering animosity and deep distrust (in me) towards Muslims might be due to reading about the atrocities committed by the Moghuls at a young age. Rana Pratap was frankly moving - wasn't it the one in which Queen Ahalya and rest committed self-immolation ? Or was it some other story ? The Mahabharath series was starting and I read a dozen+, but it was around the time I was starting to wind down comics reading.

There are very few things in life that don't represent a mixed bag of experiences - some good, some bad. Somehow ACK for me, was uniformly good, magical and nothing but interesting. There have been few things in my life that have been as enriching.
 
GP: Thank you. Yours is informative as well.

VK: You can see the pic of MS and daughters at the 1966 UNO concert with Ghatam VinayakRam and VV Subramaniam..IIRC, Vinayak Ram was part of a Grammy winning team as well.

I,
carpet bombing campaign? :)

Hip grandma,
Proliferation of electronic gadgets is eating into the reading habits of kids. The print media needs heavy promotion in this age group.

Ashok,
Thanks.

Sridhar,
Oh yes, now I remember Senapati Bapat too :-) I missed most of the others you mentioned.

BNB,
I dont remember reading Rana Pratap in ACK. But Padmini had a lot of what you were talking about. And I think Prithviraj and Tarabai too.
 
ttm:
of course, Padmini. Damn, PrithviRaj Chauhan - Padmini ! How could I ever forget.
 
Hey ttm, its a pleasant surprise to see you that you have started blogging again. Welcome back :)
 
Ha...Nice post! Well maintained blog :)

U r tagged..Pls check my blog :) Write if u can :)
 
TTM, nice post. But how come you missed mentioning Suppandi?
 
It surpises me that you goin detail, I started reading comics back in 2nd grade and ACK along with Twinkle Digest. I also did have my other favorites but nothing like the Indian comics.,
Oh and I still love comics, eventhought i dont understand or remember half the Authours and stuff your talking about here.

An Archivist Indeed!

SQ
 
Amar Chitra Katha was my favourite too...Besides I used to read Gokulam, Tinkle, Chandamama regularly...
 
My favourite too! I still remember adichupudifying during library hour in Class V to catch hold of 'Meera'. Padmini was another favourite. Incidentally, we have brought back my husband's bound ACK collections for our daughter from India!!!
 
Fantastic Article....I too get very nostalgic about ACK comic strips. Those were the golden years of my life!
 
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Does anyone have old ACK comics, i am missing many old prints not available for sale now. It would be a great help
 
I am happy to find this very useful for me, as it contains lot of information. I always prefer to read the quality content.
 
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