Friday, September 28, 2012

Reena I. Puri, editor of Amar Chitra Katha.

Life in wonderland

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Reena I. Puri, editor, Amar Chitra Katha
The HinduReena I. Puri, editor, Amar Chitra Katha
Reena I. Puri, editor of Amar Chitra Katha, on why comic books are her life
It’s not often that you come across an adult who is this excited about, well… comics! Then again we’re talking about Reena I. Puri, editor of Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), India’s much-loved English comic book series that was started in 1967 by the granddaddy of Indian comics, the late Anant Pai. “Who wouldn’t want to read comics all their life? It’s like a dream come true. Work for me has never been just work, it’s pure joy,” says Reena, when MetroPlus caught up with her while she was on a personal visit to the city.
Since she became editor of ACK in 2007, Reena, a Mavelikara-native based in Bangalore, has been spearheading the magazine’s revival. Under her direction, after a lull of over two decades, ACK has now expanded its traditional content base of epics and mythology, history, fables and folklore and diversified into the ‘visionaries series’ (life stories of Anant Pai, Salim Ali, Jim Corbett, Mother Teresa and the like) and comic book versions of contemporary classics such as Ruskin Bond’s The Blue Umbrella. ACK’s also keyed into the digital age and the series is now available as e-comics, animated cartoons, video games, and even as apps!
Of course, Reena is an old hand at reading the pulse of the younger generation. After all, this former journalist learnt the art of comics from the legendary ‘Uncle’ Pai himself. Reena started her career in comics when she joined Tinkle, a sister concern of Amar Chitra Katha, as an assistant editor in 1991 and worked with Uncle Pai till she moved to Bangalore in 2005. “Actually, it was my children Kunal and Varun, now 32 and 28 years old, respectively, who pushed me into comics. They overheard me pondering aloud about my various job offers after we moved to Mumbai. There was no doubt on their faces as to which one I should choose! I have never looked backed since,” recalls Reena, with a laugh. Nevertheless, working closely with Uncle Pai, Reena mentored Tinkleinto a 72-page monthly and helped develop and create a series of new characters such as ‘Butterfingers’, written by city-based author Khyrunnisa A.
“Talking about Mr. Pai is like taking about somebody who was a huge part of my growing up; someone who was a part of the family; someone who mentored me in all aspects of children’s writing. Whatever I know about writing for children or thinking about children or even choosing stories for children, was all taught to me by Mr. Pai,” says Reena.
Since Uncle Pai brought out an Amar Chitra Katha in English on Krishna(1969), these comics have always found a readership in India, and today with the entry of graphic novels and manga comics with Indian content, business is booming for the comic book industry. “In my time with ACK Media (the publishers of Tinkle, ACK, Karadi Tales, and so on) I’ve now had the privilege of associating and interacting with a couple of generations of children, hearing with pride how Tinkle and ACK have played a role in shaping their lives,” says Reena.
And apparently, genre-wise, it is comics on mythology that are still the best sellers, observes Reena. “Perhaps, it’s because Indian mythology is a big part of our everyday living experience,” she says.
Also, of late, the illustration style of ACKs seems to have become more modernised… “It’s all being done in digital format and most of our artists are young. It’s their perspective of the world that you see on ACK nowadays. For instance, if you ask for a sketch of Shiva, they’ll draw one with Him with a six-pack! I insist that the first sketches are always hand-sketched.”
On the anvil
Reena says that ACK is now focussing on expanding its contemporary classics collection. Upcoming are adaptations of Mulk Raj Anand’s stories. “We will soon be moving into regional literature. We are in the process of adapting stories by Munshi Premchand, Mahasweta Devi, and Vaikom Muhammed Basheer.” ACK is also planning a series on folk tales from Himachal Pradesh and North East India and in the visionaries’ category they’re thinking of introducing sports personalities and environment activists. “Battles are being fought on different planes these days and it’s necessary to tap into trending issues,” says Reena.

ACK Media launches complete set of Amar Chitra Katha comics

ACK Media launches complete set of Amar Chitra Katha comics

The Complete Collection that has been put together with Amar Chitra Katha's 300 most popular titles has also been launched as a tribute to Anant Pai and celebrates his birth anniversary.

There probably are few who have not enjoyed Amar Chitra Katha comics in their years of growing up. Many probably still do, to say nothing of the many children to whom the titles of Amar Chitra Katha still are introduction to the numerous tales of India.
ACK Media that owns the Amar Chitra Katha comic series has brought together the various popular titles in a single collection called The Complete Collection. The collectors' set is a series of comics spanning across diverse genres comprising 300 bestselling titles of Amar Chitra Katha.
Manas Mohan
In a conversation with afaqs!, Manas Mohan, chief operating officer, ACK Media, says, "Our various titles from different collections are available across platforms online and in physical stores. We noticed that most people these days do not just pick up a single comic book and leave it at that. Many prefer box sets and collections. The ticket size is larger now. With The Complete Collection, the intent is to invite people to pick up our entire set of titles that have been enjoyed over the years."
The collection is being offered at two price points; a collection of 300 titles is available at Rs 14,990; while a collection with 10 additional special titles will cost Rs 17,885.
The Complete Collection is also a tribute to Anant Pai or Uncle Pai as he is fondly known, and mark his 82nd birth anniversary on September 17.
Uncle Pai, who expired on February 25 last year, started the Amar Chitra Katha series in 1967 in association with India Book House, retelling Indian folklores, mythology and biographies of important Indian figures, both mythological and real-life personalities. Another popular magazine, Tinkle, was launched in 1980.
Interestingly, on his first death anniversary this year, ACK Media launched a special title on Pai.
Mohan says that a lot of the classic titles have now been re-coloured and in the recent titles, ACK Media has evolved to a new art style that is more graphic, keeping the style more contemporary and relevant.
"Clearly, the core of Amar Chitra Katha is the stories that are picked up in entirety, simplified for children to understand and enjoy, and the unique aspect of storytelling. The quality of art is also something that keeps Amar Chitra Katha very unique. Our choice of stories and people exemplifies and puts forward Indian values," says Mohan.
"Our stories, I am convinced, are evergreen. The relevance of these stories will never go down. Classically, children have been our TG (target group). But people do not outgrow Amar Chitra Katha. The pride of ownership is the father's, the happiness is the child's," he adds.
It's our 13th Anniversary today! We at afaqs! thank all of you for your love and support.

A Conversation With: Tinkle Magazine Editor Rajani Thindiath

Rajani Thindiath.Courtesy ACK MediaRajani Thindiath.
Tinkle, India’s first English-language comic book for children, published its 600th issue last month. Anant Pai, a former news executive known fondly to readers as Uncle Pai, introduced the magazine in April 1980.
Mr. Pai, who died last yearwas best known as the creator of the popular comic book series Amar Chitra Katha, or Immortal Illustrated Stories; published since 1967, itretells quintessentially Indian stories, whether great epics, folk tales or biographies.
Tinkle, on the other hand, takes as its motto “Where Learning Meets Fun,” and its pagesare filled with comic strips, facts about everything from sports to physics and a generous helping of quizzes and contests. Beloved by millions of Indians, the magazine has made many a tedious train journey more enjoyable for children (and the other passengers, too).
In 2007, the Amar Chitra Katha brand, including Tinkle, was sold to two entrepreneurs, who in turn sold a majority stake to the Future Group, a clothing and finance conglomerate, last year. The monthly circulation ofTinkle’s print properties, which include the magazine and several digests, is now about 225,000, growing at 30 percent over the past two years, said Manas Mohan, chief operating officer at ACK Media.
India Ink recently caught up with Rajani Thindiath, Tinkle’s editor, who joined the company four years ago armed with a degree in psychology and diplomas in animation and journalism. In an e-mail interview, Ms. Thindiath discussed the 600th issue of Tinkle, how Indian comics are different from those in other countries and the possible television debuts of some of Tinkle’s most popular characters.
First things first. Why is Tinkle called “Tinkle”?
Subba Rao, who was the associate editor of Amar Chitra Katha, proposed the idea of a comic book for children to Anant Pai during a meeting. Mr Rao’s idea was accepted, and the team began discussing a name for the magazine. Mr. Pai said he wanted a musical name—and that’s when a call interrupted the meeting.
Mr. Rao, whose phone had rung, told the caller that he was busy and that he would give a “tinkle,” or call back, later in the day. Then, when he put the phone down, Mr. Rao proposed ‘Tinkle’ as the name of the new magazine. Mr Pai liked the name and Tinkle was born.
Soon the ‘Tinkle Tinkle Little Star’ campaigns started airing on radio and TV, based on the popular children’s rhyme, to launch the new magazine.
The cover of the 600th issue of Tinkle.Courtesy ACK MediaThe cover of the 600th issue of Tinkle.
You launched Tinkle’s 600th edition last month; tell us about that and your Laugh-a-thon campaign.
Tinkle 600 is a “thank you” to everyone associated with the magazine. Since it is designed to be a collector’s edition, we focused on the number six and had six famous storytellers from India writing for us – Samit Basu, Samhita Arni, Priya Kuriyan, Anushka Ravishankar, Vishwajyoti Ghosh and Roopa Pai.
Tinkle’s motto “Where Learning Meets Fun” shapes the magazine. There is loads of learning to be done with loads of laughter. So we thought what better way to celebrate the 600th issue than to try and create a laughter record with our readers. That is how the Tinkle Tickles Laugh-a-thon was born. We asked readers to call us or log on to our Web site to record their laughter and help us create a laughter record.
Do you think comic book readership in India is limited to children, unlike in other countries? Is the content designed with that in mind?
We have gained because of the legacy of Uncle Pai. Children in India have grown up reading Tinkle and are very much used to having it in their lives. Right from the outset he had decided to create a magazine for children in the age group 8 to 14 years. When we design the story, we keep that in mind, but like movies certified as “U” or for unrestricted public exhibition, it is more like family entertainment.
Children enjoy reading it with their parents and grandparents. This is something we always keep in mind while creating content; we do not portray unnecessary violence or allow abusive language.
As for comics in India, they have remained in a limbo till recently when there was an explosion in content, geared mainly for older readers. These are exciting times; there is so much exploration and experimentation going on. It’s like we are hurrying to make up for lost time.
The Tinkle character "Tantri the Mantri."Courtesy ACK MediaThe Tinkle character “Tantri the Mantri.”
The superhero phenomenon does not seem to have caught on in India. Tinkle also focuses more on memorable characters than superheroes.
You know, I am glad. We seem to have blinders on when we think of comic characters. Generally when we ask someone to name his or her favorite comic character, it is invariably a superhero. At Tinkle, we’ve always had the space to explore different characters, all commonplace and relatable.
As for a truly Indian superhero, it would have been a success had the idea been good and the focus was on mass distribution. Subconsciously till now our superheroes have been inspired by Western superheroes, making them “wannabe” in a way.
But the superhero is not a Western concept; it has resonance in mythology as well. That is not to say we should focus only on mythological characters. I believe the superhero genre is immensely exciting simply because of the scope it offers. With comics becoming relevant again, I’m sure we’ll soon see an upsurge in superhero comics as well.
Who is your favorite Tinkle character and why?
That’s easy! The Defective Detectives. They are paranoid, they are melodramatic, they are absurd and they almost always get it wrong. It is super fun taking the ordinary and dreaming up conspiracy theories for the bungling duo. Rather like telling the lunatic inside me to go out and have a blast.
The Tinkle character "Suppandi."Courtesy ACK MediaThe Tinkle character “Suppandi.”
Why don’t we see Tinkle characters on television or in movies?
Oh, but you soon will. ACK Animation’s “Suppandi! Suppandi!” will be screened on Cartoon Network, possibly later this year, and there are plans for the other characters as well.
Some people believe that with the advent of cable television, Internet and the popularity of cinema specially for children, comic book readership has been affected.
There will be new technology and as a result, new media will emerge in each generation. But those who like to read will always read. Some just need that little push, and I think comics provide just that.
The medium is that perfect bridge between visual media like cinema and the written word, bringing alive what are essentially static words and images. Comics are an ideal crossover tool, with ready content for films and animation.
How has Tinkle adapted to the changing demands of today’s readers?
Tinkle has stayed relevant because of the great connection it shares with its readers. We talk to them, take their feedback and involve them in every facet of our magazine, from stories and art to look and design. I’d say we have evolved with our readers, and the storytelling style and our characters match the pace and awareness of our readers, who are exposed to computer games, the Internet, special effects in the movies and a host of new-age technologies.
It is my desire to expose our readers to diverse storytelling and artwork styles so that their worldview, their sense of stories and art, is not limited.
Another wish is to urge children out of their comfort zones and push them to explore the world. We have already begun this in Tinkle through nonfiction sections such as Tinkle Spotlight, an interview feature with experts from various fields to help children discover diverse career options, and Mark Your Calendar, a monthly events segment that introduces readers to sports, festivals and cultural events from all over the globe.

From the good old days.

From the good old days

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Childhood passion: Arun Prasad Photo: V. Karthikeyan
Childhood passion: Arun Prasad Photo: V. Karthikeyan
Arun Prasad, a collector of all things vintage, has collected 10,000 copies of old and rare comic books
Our childhood memories are inextricably linked with comic books. Just a glimpse of a copy of TinkleThe Phantom BeltSpiderman or Mahabharata, set the wheels of nostalgia in motion.
It is not often, though, that one comes across the original prints of comic books of yore. Fortunately, due to the efforts of Arun Prasad — a freelance journalist, history buff and an avid reader of comics — comic book aficionados had the rare opportunity of seeing and leafing through Indian and international vintage comics, some of them dating as far back as 1967, at the recently-held Bengaluru Comic-Con Express.
There was nothing flashy about Arun’s Vintage comic books stall, yet it attracted many visitors, adults and children alike for the elegant display of his collection. Viewers, all wide-eyed, thumbed through the comics, wondering at the hand-drawn art.
The range of vintage comics on display would perhaps amaze even those who pride themselves on their knowledge on comic books and make a cursory comic book lover want to delve deeper into the history of comics.
Old and rare
The stall had on view a wide array of old and rare comics: The first appearance of super heroes like Mandrake, Flash, Bahadur, Buz Sawyer, Lt. Drake, Mike Nomad, among others, along with special issues of Robin Hood, Mickey Mouse, Zorro, Tulsidas’s Ramcharita Manas, Bahubali etc.
One of Arun’s fascinating collections is Amar Chitra Katha’s first original edition issues from 1967, including Krishna. Tinkle’s 1980’s number one and two issues, first issues of Adarsh Chitra KathaChathurang KathaChitra Bharathi,Chiranjiv Chitra KathaGaurav GathaDalton Comics, among others.There were comics featuring Amitabh Bachan and Gavaskar as super heroes. And interestingly, India’s first 3D comic published by Star Comics in the 1980’s.
Collecting has been Arun’s passion since childhood, but he lost all the comics he had garnered when he shifted from Kerala to Bangalore. But a gift of an Indrajal comic by a friend, re-kindled his desire to set forth on a determined search for vintage comics. “I started collecting from scratch. I even visited raddiwalas to procure old copies of comic books. I was fortunate to collect all the comics that I had lost. As of now, I have 10,000 comics,” he says triumphantly.
Collecting was the easier part of the journey, far more trying for Arun was sorting, cataloguing, numbering and preserving the comics. Arun used sophisticated and imported preservation tools to keep the comics free of moisture, dust and insects. He has even built an exclusive storage space for the comics. “Being a Phantom fan, I built two to three almirahs and named them Skull Cave, which I will be inaugurating soon.”
History made interesting
Arun’s favourite comic hero is Mayavi and he is a fan of Uncle Pai as he made “history interesting for and accessible to children.” He is not a fan of modern comics for their plot and characters.
“I am disturbed by the choice of anti-heroes over heroes in contemporary comics. Phantom, for example, wasn’t bestowed with superpowers. He was a human being with admirable qualities and so resonated with the reader. There are too many “dark characters” in comics these days.” He also rues the decline of the admirable practice of hand-drawn comics. “Most contemporary comics use computer techniques these days,” he comments.
Arun’s collection expertise is not just restricted to comic books but extends to all things vintage. He has written columns on the heritage of Bangalore and has a keen interest in the history of urbanisation of Indian cities.
He is currently working on a coffee book table on the city. He has collected Vintage Print ads, letters, and maps on Bangalore for the last 18 years.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Comic Con India Workshop in Mumbai

Comic Con India Workshop in Mumbai
Comic Con India announced that they are holding 2 back to back workshops this coming weekend for all the Comics enthusiasts in Mumbai. Comic Con India is soon going to bring the 1st annual Mumbai Film and Comics Convention to Mumbai on October 20 & 21' 2012.
Abhijeet Kini, one of the leading artists in the Indian comics industry, a regular contributor to Tinkle, Time Out, Hindustan Times, DNA among many others, will take the audience through the process creating the characters, style and look of a comic/graphic novel, along with the making of his latest graphic novels Milk & Quickies, Chairman Meow & Uud Bilaw Manus! Abhijeet will also discuss the life of an Independent artist in the Indian comics industry!
The workshop is completely free to attend and no prior registration is required.
Date - Friday, 21st Sep, 2012
Time - 6PM Onwards
Venue - Leaping Windows Cafe
3 Corner View, Off Yari Road, Opposite Bianca Towers/ Raj Classic, Versova, Andheri West
For any info contact - Ph: 097 69 998972

Jazyl Homavazir 
is the creator of the webcomic series 'The Beast Legion' which is dubbed as the first web manga series to come from India. He will take the audience through the process of creating the characters, style and look of a comic/web comic, along with the making 'The Beast Legion' which is a fantasy adventure series that focuses on the journey of a Prince, Xeus who sets off on a quest to save his home world which is being devasted by the terror of a Warlock, Dragos & his band of Shadow Nexus warriors.

The workshop is completely free to attend and no prior registration is required. 
Date  - 
Saturday, 22nd Sep, 2012
- 12 pm Onwards 
 - Temperance St. Xaverian Court, Sherly Rajan Road,
Near Rizvi College of Hotel Management, Bandra West, Mumbai
For information, contact - +91 9833833270 / 9833833274
Jazyl Homavazir


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Monday, September 24, 2012

Mrinal Rai showcases Debut Graphic Novel ‘Kurukshetra Yudh’ at First Ever Comic Con Bengaluru

Mrinal Rai is out with his debut graphic Novel titled Kurukshetra Yudh, a 540 pages graphic novel revolving around the stories of the period of 18 Days of Mahabharata War. Kurukshetra Yudh talks about military tactics, vyuhas -military formations, warriors from distant lands and has an emotional and analytical perspective for the younger generation, who were a part of the war. At Comic Con Bengaluru, Mrinal showcased the first part of trilogy ‘Yuganta’, which includes the story of the first ten days of the war.
The book is entirely written and designed by Mrinal and is composed with a collection of 50 paintings from the Mahabharata epic. Published under Mrinal’s own publishing banner, Lotus of Saraswati, the aim of this book is to educate the younger generation about the values of Mahabharata.
Speaking to about the idea of creating a graphic novel on Mahabharata, Mrinal Rai, shared, “Indian Mythology is very rich and everyone should know about the interesting stories taken place in the past. Kurukshetra Yudh is set in the war period and hence my book starts with the end of Virata Parva of Mahabharata, which is the 4th book of Mahabharata, In this book, I have included 18 chapters of Geeta teachings with dedicating one chapter to each day of the war, with detailed diagram’s of that day’s military formation and detailed description of the character’s. To make the stories visually appealing, I have designed a combination of 6 paintings giving a pictorial description of the scenes from the story.”
For writing this Graphic Novel, Mrinal studied the Mahabharata version of Kisari Mohan Ganguly and researched on ancient folklores and stories related to classical dance forms.
Also, Mrinal put complete focus on studying various kingdoms as well as analyzed numerous maps of Indian states. Some more crucial areas which Mrinal studied for writing this book were Wikipedia, Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana and Shivaji Sawant’s novel Mrityunjay.
Expressing more on his publishing house Lotus of Saraswati, Mrinal stated,
“Lotus of Saraswati is an independent media house, publishing my own comic books and Graphic novels and it has been founded in a much unplanned way. I wanted to take part in Comic Con India, which happened early this year at Delhi and the comic con team asked me to give a title to my stall and the first name that struck my mind was “Lotus of Saraswati”. Since I have not learned any art and drawing technique from anywhere, I consider it as a God’s gift to me and hence, I decided to keep it as the title for my publishing house.”
Priced at INR 350, it has taken around 4 years for Mrinal to complete Kurukshetra Yudh and it will soon be available for purchase online on leading book stories. Mrinal has published around 200 plus copies of this book and sold around 25 copies at Comic Con Express Bengaluru.
Sharing thoughts on participating at the First Ever Comic Con Bengaluru, Mrinal said, “Since I participated in Comic con India, I have had good relations with the Comic Con Team and Twenty Onwards media. They approached me for any interest of putting up a booth at Bengaluru. The experience at Comic Con Bengaluru was overwhelming and I found many people interested in my book Kurukshetra Yudh.”
Presently, Mrinal is working on a Graphic Novel, titled ‘Visha Kanya’; which is a story set in the back drop of ancient India, post Maurya period including the story of national integrity, politics, deceit and bravery. Also, he is working on a couple of suspense and thriller stories, which he plans to showcase at Comic Con next year.
Informing about the challenging aspect while making Kurukshetra Yudh, Mrinal highlighted,” The major challenge was to work on the script and the drawings at the same time. But since I had already written the text some years ago, it took me very little time to modify it. The paintings did take a lot of effort and had to be completed at a fast pace as the deadline for the comic con Bengaluru was around the corner.”