Ananthram, who then worked at the Bangalore office of the India Book House (IBH), had tired of selling imported English books, including Agatha Christie and ‘Wild West’ writers like Louis L’Amour, and thought it was about time Indian children were exposed, in popular writings, to their own history and mythology. Deeply influenced by the ongoing Kannada literary renaissance (a decade after the Karnataka state had come into being), he also wanted to see children reading more books in the local language. Whenever his boss G.L. Mirchandani, also the owner of IBH, came to Bangalore from Mumbai, Ananthram “pestered” him, as he now humorously recalls, to let him publish books in Kannada. Finally, he managed to get the big man to give him Rs 10,000 for his new baby—which turned out, after a few twists and turns, to be a popular comic series, christened Amar Chitra Katha by Ananthram himself.
Today, at 78, the man still has vivid memories of how it all happened: “Mirchandani was a tall, large-hearted gentleman. He trusted people easily. Since I kept nagging him about Kannada books, I presume he sanctioned money to silence me.” Seed capital in hand, Ananthram toyed with various possibilities, including a series on royal dynasties, and then, because he was “restless and wanted a quick start”, hit upon the idea of getting English comics translated into Kannada. “I could have translated them myself,” he says, “but from a marketing point of view I wanted a big name. I approached the legendary writer K. Shivaram Karanth, and he readily obliged.”
It’s quite clear, from Ananthram’s recounting of his role in the ACK story, that he was keen to celebrate and reconstruct a glorified past. It is an impulse one might distrust today, but there was both a historical context and space for it in the ’60s, with almost no accessible reading material on history and culture for the masses. Indeed, Ananthram recalls an incident which was a trigger for him. Once, while travelling on an important Bangalore road that had just been renamed Nrupatunga Road, after a 9th century Rashtrakuta monarch, he overheard a boy ask his companion: “Who is this fellow Nrupaathuungaa?” The boy, Ananthram recalls, couldn’t even get the pronunciation right. “His face still comes before me. I thought we should do something to rid the ignorance of our youngsters about our past.”
To Anathram’s satisfaction, the venture was a great commercial success, and it was this success story that led him to write up a proposal for his head office in Mumbai suggesting a mythological comic series in English to take forward the Amar Chitra Katha project. Mirchandani pursued the idea diligently, and the rest is history. “They brought in Anant Pai, who was handling Indrajaal comics for the Times of India,” says Ananthram. “And he built a wonderful team and a great brand.” But while generously giving Pai his due, he does stress—for the record—that the idea and proposal for ACK were generated back in Bangalore.
“I see myself as a midwife in the birth of the comic series,” says Ananthram, who today runs the Omthara Kala Kuteera on a 20-acre plot in Basavenhalli in Ramanagara district, close
to Bangalore. A multi-million-rupee sculptural narrative to depict India’s religious, mythological and historical traditions is slowly taking shape here. “Indian culture is a mosaic and I want it captured here in stone for posterity,” explains the man who, 46 years after he conceived the comic series, still seems to be still living out the ACK dream in his richly illustrated home. All around him, the graphic vision contained in the comic strips has taken generous shape in an abundance of stone, wood and bronze sculptures.
Your story on Amar Chitra Katha’s origins (A Pandit Had A Dream..., Mar 21) reminded me that Uncle Pai’s death went largely unnoticed. And this is a man who made Indian epics and mythology as exciting as the Lord of the Rings.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
I have written about Ananth pai, in kannada wikipedia. But this story of Amarachitrakatha prior to Pai is really fascinating. But Ananthram might not be having the skills of sketching and writing in picture story form. But his contributions are to be recorded.
The link :
Ananth Pai, the man who introduced fantasies, fascination and knowledge in my childhood, long long before the pizza franchisees and Cartoon Network arrived with their concept of cheese-gobbling couch potatoes.
We will never forget him...
I would like to talk or have letter correspondence with Anantharamu, who has got some right ideas.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT