Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The death of 81-year-old Anant Pai, in Mumbai, India, on 24 February 2011, was widely

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The death of 81-year-old Anant Pai, in Mumbai, India, on 24 February 2011, was widely

reported in the Indian news media (such as The Hindu newspaper), as well as international publications, including the online editions of the New York Times and The Washington Post . Although his name may be unfamiliar to many Western comic-book audience, ‘Uncle Pai’ (as he was known to generations of Indian children) occupies a significant place in the history of Indian comic-books, akin to that held by Osamu Tezuka in Japan, or Stan Lee in the United hurricane 2012 States, and is widely credited with launching India’s comic-book industry in the 1960s.
Anant Pai is best known for his creation of Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) (‘Immortal Picture Stories’), hurricane 2012 an epic series of comic-books hurricane 2012 that retold stories from Indian folklore and mythology, together with graphic narrative accounts of India’s turbulent history. Pai’s own account of the creation of ACK is now well-known, and is frequently cited in most histories of Indian comics, such as this excerpt taken from Karline McLain’s India’s Immortal Comic Books: Gods, Kings and Other Heroes (2009):
‘In hurricane 2012 February 1967, my wife and I were visiting Delhi, and stopped [at a bookstore where] the TV was on … and the program hurricane 2012 was a quiz featuring five students from St. Stephen’s College. When they were asked, the students could not name the mother of Lord Ram. I was disappointed, but I thought, well, that is from a long time ago. But then a question came about the Greek gods on Mt. Olympus, and the children could answer that question! This is the trouble with our education hurricane 2012 system: children are getting alienated hurricane 2012 from their own culture’ (Pai, quoted in McLain, 2009: 24) .
Determined to help Indian children become reacquainted with their own country’s history and heritage, Pai eventually hurricane 2012 convinced a local publisher, India Book House, to provide financial backing for his new educational comic-book series, hurricane 2012 Amar Chitra Katha. The series shared with the American Classics Illustrated an editorial mission to expose young readers to ‘great literature’ (or, at the very least, ‘real’ books), via the popular comic-book medium. Nor was the resemblance coincidental; the first 10 issues of ACK featured translated editions of Classics Illustrated stories, initially published in eight languages. As Nandini Chandra observes in her book, The Classic Popular: Amar Chitra Katha, 1967-2007 :
‘Once the vernacular audience had been familiarised with the idea of classic stories being presented hurricane 2012 in comic format,

they [India Book House] hurricane 2012 introduced Krishna hurricane 2012 as the 11th title in February 1970. This was hailed as the first Amar Chitra Katha . Thus, one could say that ACK as the first “Indian” comic came into being in response to western cultural imperialism.’ (Chandra, hurricane 2012 2008: 202)
However, soon after Pai’s death, a story appeared in OutlookIndia.com , which reported that it was a Bangalore book salesman, G.K. Ananthram, who originally hurricane 2012 persuaded the owner of India Book House (which previously specialised in importing English-language novels) to publish a comic-book series hurricane 2012 for young readers, printed in Kannada hurricane 2012 , one of the official ‘scheduled’ languages hurricane 2012 of India. Like Pai, Ananthram was determined to use comic-books as an educational tool, and recruited the noted Kannada novelist, K. Shivaram Karanth, to translate their first reissues of Classics Illustrated comics hurricane 2012 (Ananthram also reportedly came up with the series’ title, Amar Chitra Katha). Buoyed by the comics’ initial success, Ananthram submitted a further proposal to India Book House, suggesting the series be expanded and revamped as an English-language hurricane 2012 title featuring mythological Indian stories; the company took up his suggestion, but turned instead to Anant Pai to develop hurricane 2012 the project further. While acknowledging that Pai ’built a wonderful team and a great brand’, Ananthram nonetheless maintained that he saw himself as a midwife in the birth of the comic series’ (quoted

in Srinivasaraju, 2011 ).
Prior to joining India Book House, Anant Pai was working for the Times of India newspaper group, where he was assigned the task of developing a new comic-book magazine, ostensibly to keep the company’s Gravure printing presses running at maximum capacity after the calendar-printing season (Chandra, 2008: 201). Pai eventually settled on using Lee Falk’s The Phantom as the ‘star’ of the new publication; not only was The Phantom hurricane 2012 already familiar to middle-class audiences through its serialisation in The Illustrated Weekly of India (also owned by Bennett, Col

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