It’s a mixed blessing to be reading a new Amar Chitra Katha title. I hold ACK in very high regard, freely propounding that they are the best Indian comics, a school within itself, so new titles from them is a positive thing. Their company profile proudly states that they have over 400 titles in print, of which I’m sure 200 are excellent ones, and 200 are good.
Unfortunately this one is awful.
ACK has been releasing new titles since a slew of modernization took place in their organization. A fresh coat of paint is always a future-friendly move. So it is laudable that they are releasing new titles, and not just undertaking umpteen more reprints.
But what they haven’t capitalized upon is their experience in story-telling that has been honed over decades of focused efforts by the veteran creative team. In all possibility this is because the gap between their decline in the early 90’s and their revival now an entire generation has walked through their doors. So the venerable artists and writers have mostly taken their last bows, and now the house is almost starting from scratch. Or, so I feel.
As I read “Tirupati – The Lord of Tirumala” I was appalled by the incoherent story, which I had a hard time following, leave alone a member of their real target age group understanding. The unnecessary peg – trying to centre the story around Tirupati Temple (cashing in on its popularity) is something they hadn’t tried before this, and shouldn’t have either. The temple is just there for its name, while the story is about Lord Vishnu and his avataars, relationship, promises, yada yada – actually I really am not sure what it is about.
The fountainhead of ACK is now gone. Many of the old artists are gone. The sharp writers are gone. And with them the reputation of the house might well be on its way out. If that happens, then my faith in Indian comics will suffer a huge blow. Comics in India are exactly that right now – comics in India. They are not Indian Comics. ACK used to be that for me, an indigenous series, relying on everything original (even if questionable on the facts). But now they are a pale impression of their former self.
Here is my list of suggestions for ACK:
- Since you aren’t breaking out new titles at warp speed, take time to get the stories right. Train writers, and editors. If you are doing so, then take it up several notches yet.
- Try and get rid of the glossy colour feel to the art. The classic art was classic for a reason.
- Expand beyond mythology and heroes to history and non-Hindu culture.
- And while you are at all this – do something about Tinkle magazine. It is pitifully bad. Get back the folktales, get back the classic art sense, and create interesting, new characters (better than that fly and spider).
Well, all these are just what a devoted reader feels. They might not be the answer to ACK’s problems. But at least the right questions on where they are going so wrong should help. I realize I am asking for the past in the future, but that’s what ACK needs to project. Making it iPad friendly is all well and good, but making it reader-unfriendly is sudden death.
Then they’re just better off reprinting.