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Posted at 4:17 PM ET, 02/25/2011

RIP, ANANT PAI: 'Father of Indian comics' dies at 81

By Michael Cavna

There long was such a poignant quality to Anant Pai's creative rise through the power of the cartoon. Orphaned by age 2, the multilingual scholar rose to become a parental teacher of sorts for millions of children and, in the process, the widely recognized "father of Indian comics."

It was not without affection that the avuncular comics writer and illustrator became known internationally as "Uncle Pai."


Dismayed by his nation's lack of knowledge about Indian mythology, culture and religion, Pai launched an educational comics series titled Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) in 1967. The series quickly became a hit with kids and adults alike, and Uncle Pai helped sire a nation's budding interest and industry in comics. Amar Chitra Katha released titles by the hundreds and sold books by the millions; ACK reportedly still sells 3-million copies annually and has sold more than 100-million books total.

Two years later, Pai launched Rang Rekha Features, the first comic and cartoon syndicate in India. And in 1980, he debuted the children's magazine Tinkle.

Given his vital legacy and continuing popularity, Uncle Pai, by all rights, should have been present last weekend at India's first-ever Comic-Con. He was, after all, receiving the lifetime achievement award. Pai, however, reportedly was kept away by a foot fracture (his longtime editor, Reena I. Pur, accepted the award on his behalf).

Late Thursday, Pai died from a heart attack at age 81, several days after undergoing surgery for the fracture, ACK executive Rushabh Sanghavi told the Associated Press. He is survived by his wife, Lalitha, according to the Hindu.

The father of Indian comics had no children -- other than the global millions of young readers who absorbed, and continue to revel in, the passionate embrace of his work.



By Michael Cavna  | February 25, 2011; 4:17 PM ET
Categories:  General, The Comic Book  | Tags:  .Rang Rekha Features, Amar Chitra Katha, Anant Pai, Indian Comic-Con  
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The ACKs, introduced us to the history and mostly the mythology (chiefly Hindu mythology) of India, lacked accuracy. Mr. Pai, emphasized ‘accuracy’ as a marketing tool.

ACK present a distorted version of history, and a Chitpawan orthodox Brahminical bias. Mr. Pai and a good section of his editorial staff was of the Chitpawan Brahmin ranks (from Kerala / Maharashtra / Karnataka).

Women are overtly stereotyped and eroticised. Minorities are depicted in a disdainful and unequal fashion.

It is no wonder that teleserials, Ramayan and Mahabharata and others made on Indian ‘history’ and ‘mythology’ (not including Bharat Ek Khoj), took visual idiom and cues from ACK. A Bollywood treatment requires stereotypes, and ACK is full of stereotypes.

My children dont read ACKs. Rather they read Arthur Ryder’s translation of the Pancatantra. When they acquire Sanskrit, they can read Ramayana and Mahabharata / Bhagavad Gita. In mid-teens, I will introduce them to Vedas and the Upanishads. Further, they will do an all-India tour for six months and see the architecture and arts.

Real education of the children is too important to be left to 32 page ‘illustrated classics’ with poor use of grammar and syntax. Comic books will not do as substitute for in depth learning. Values are to be internalized, not memorialized.

Posted by: arunathreya1967 | February 28, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

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