The HinduIllustrating history: As illustrator for Amar Chitra Katha’s ‘Thanjavur’, Rakesh C.S. required a deep understanding of the city and its rich heritage. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
The level of detail in the illustrations sets apart the work of Amar Chitra Katha’s newest artist
At first sight, Rakesh C.S. doesn’t seem like a typical mythologist. Quiet, dressed in jeans and a bright shirt, he looks like any other youngster at a college cricket match. This serious young man is the illustrator of the latest from Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), Thanjavur.
Thanjavur is a comic that explores the rich mythological and historical tales surrounding the famous temple town, which was the seat of the Chola empire. His was a role which, by his own admittance, required an almost scholarly level of knowledge about the city and its rich heritage.
A native of Kerala, Rakesh joined the Bangalore studio of ACK as an illustrator, and was given his first opportunity with Thanjavur after several years of making sketches.
“It was fantastic,” he says. “As a child I would read the Malayalam language versions of ACK comics and make sketches of the scenes that caught my imagination.” Like any child, he enjoyed the Tinkle comics, but the ACK publications that focused on the rich mythological and historical heritage of India inspired him and held his attention.
Thanjavur was an exciting opportunity for Rakesh to demonstrate his considerable illustrative skills.
The story itself was written by Prabha Nair, a veteran ACK writer who has worked with numerous artists, including the legendary Anant Pai.
Rakesh’s style remains faithful to that of ACK’s numerous publications. The level of detail in the comic, which includes art on the depicted buildings, sets it apart.
“Because Thanjavur is such a famous city, it is very important for students and young readers, as well as others, to have the proper frame of reference for the story being told,” he says. “It was a little difficult to show the mathematical accuracy of the original architects of the Brihadiswara temple.” He learnt the history and the art through detailed photographs, frescoes and sketches of the temple town.
Rakesh is clearly thrilled to be a part of ACK’s new generation of artists, as it means his work will be shown around India. He grins at the thought that his artwork is now associated with one of the most well-known and beloved brands in the country.
EAST OR WEST
Rakesh has plans for merging western style art with Indian stories.
“As a storyteller, I’m interested in other comics,” he explains. “As an illustrator, I am always learning, mixing styles and seeing unique and distinctive drawing techniques.” In particular, Rakesh has been an admirer of Adam Hughes and Jim Lee (of Batman fame) and their distinctive drawing styles.
But does this predilection for Western styles affect traditional Indian comic storytelling? Rakesh doesn’t think so. ACK shares our colourful history via comics with a new generation, he says, and the style does not lessen the heritage of the story.