For those of us who grew up devouring the immortal stories of Amar Chitra Katha, its creator, the late Anant Pai, fondly remembered as Uncle Pai, evokes a treasure trove of memories.
The chemical engineer, who quit his job to write colourful stories, undoubtedly inspired a generation of readers with his timeless messages. With the recent launch of Anant Pai — Master Storyteller at Comic Con in New Delhi, vignettes of his legacy were brought to life in a 32-page comic format.
Reena Puri, editor, ACK Media, shares with us the behind the scenes story.
How was the idea for the book conceptualised? Can you give us an insight into what drew Uncle Pai to the world of comics?
We wanted to pay a tribute to the founder-editor of ACK. It is an inspirational story and one that fits the criteria for an ACK biography.
Uncle Pai was drawn to telling stories about Indian heritage because he wanted to acquaint Indian children with their roots.
He felt that children, especially English-speaking urban kids, were getting alienated from their culture and tradition. He used to say, “You may agree or disagree with your heritage, but you must know it.”
Who were the people involved in the making of the book?
Gayathri Chandrasekaran was the scriptwriter, Dilip Kadam was the artist, Subba Rao, former associate editor gave us his inputs and did the script checking, Ramesh and Adarsh were the colourists, Sivajith did the layout and the editorial team put the comic together.
Can you throw light on the research involved in shaping the book?
It took our scriptwriter, Gayathri Chandrasekaran, six months to go through Uncle Pai’s letters, and newspaper clippings, and to meet his friends, colleagues, readers and relatives.
There were hundreds of stories, because everyone seemed to have at least one personal anecdote or experience to recall.
She had to sift through all that information to decide on what would finally make it into the comic.
Can you share with us an anecdote about Uncle Pai?
Something that we were not able to put in the comic was Uncle Pai’s habit of quoting from an unbelievable range of writings.
He had a quote for every occasion. In fact, whether he had to reprimand one of us or guide us through a difficult moment, he would do it with a verse by Kabir or a shloka from the Gita!
What is unique about the sketching style of the comic?
There was only one artist involved with the illustrations. Dilip Kadam worked with Uncle Pai for over 35 years and saw the way ACK developed over the years. He drew 42 comics of the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita and Tulsidas’s Ram Charit Manas for ACK. He draws in the traditional ACK style and drew most of the panels from memory since too many photographs were not available.
The comic priced, at `50, is available in shops and online at www.amarchitrakatha.com.