It all began, once upon a time, in Bangalore.... Like the mysteries hidden in the womb of many a mythological tale dramatised by the Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), there are things the reader does not know about the genesis of this popular comic series. The oft-told story of how it was founded begins with ‘Uncle Pai’, or Anant Pai—whose recent death generated a spate of stories about the ACK phenomenon—in Mumbai in 1967. But it was in fact the restlessness and passion of a Bangalore book salesman called G.K. Ananthram that led to the first Amar Chitra Katha comics being produced in 1965—in Kannada, not English.
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.