Amar Chitra Katha and Chandamama now have online portals to cater for the new generation
BANGALORE: Hello, Cyber Suppandi. Welcome, Shikari Shambu online. And as for Vikram and Vetal, let the web wars begin!
Indian children (and quite a few parents) made these well-loved stories and characters their own, for over 50 years, before the magazines that carried them slowly vanished from the news stands. Now, they are all set to reach out to a new generation of kids, as new publishers step in to dust the thousands of stories and illustrations, all uniquely Indian, and breathe a ‘second life’ into them — on the Internet.
The famous Chandamama monthly was first brought out in 1947 by filmmaker B. Nagi Reddy and his associate, Chakrapani — with the aim of bringing Indian folklore, mythology and history to a new generation of children born in independent India. It did just that — for half a century, appearing in 14 languages — including Sanskrit and English.
Last year, Chandamama was surprisingly acquired by an Information Technology company, Geodesic, which hired as its chief executive a veteran IT journalist, L. Subramanyan, the former editor at the Dataquest group and the Jasubhai magazine group. Mr. Subramanyan steered the magazine towards a new cyber avatar. Having digitised all its archives (almost 15,000 stories in all), he took Chandamama online three months ago, using free access to many of the beloved stories to draw today’s young readers, even while creating a portal where one could order reprints of many mythological story books from its repertoire. ( www.chandamama.com).
Last week, Chandamama announced that the Thiruvananthapuram-based Toonz Animation had begun work to turn one of the magazine’s most popular stories into a full length animated feature film on a budget of Rs. 20 crore. Toonz harnesses the efforts of over 500 animation artistes to create films for some of the world’s leading television networks and movie production houses.
An almost identical road map has been followed by India’s other iconic children’s story brand — Amar Chitra Katha — which was born at India Book House in 1967, in the fertile brain of ‘Uncle’ Anant Pai.
Unlike Chandamama’s magazine format, the ‘kathas’ were stand-alone story books, based on the rich mother lode of Indian mythology, which many families still preserved in bound volumes long after the print sales stopped. For younger children, the group brought out the Tinkle monthly with its own stable of characters — Shikari Shambu, Suppandi, and Kalia, the crow. Just over a year ago, the entire repertoire was acquired by a company, ACK Media, with the legendary Anant Pai staying on as Editor Emeritus.
On September 17 this year, as ‘Uncle Pai’ turned 80, Amar Chitra Katha went online ( www.amarchitrakatha.com) at a portal where one could buy almost 240 of the 400-plus stories and read the ‘story of the day’ for free. The site prices the books in rupees and dollars: much of the new interest stems from NRI parents who want their children to enjoy the same wholesome and educative stories that they themselves read. They won’t get them at the old price though! Dollar prices for shipped copies range from $ 4 to $ 25 and direct downloads are 99 cents or Rs. 45.50 a book.
More importantly, the portal, especially the one for Tinkle ( www.tinkleonline.com) markets itself on the lines of the social networking sites — offering safe and wholesome cyber friendships.
For parents all these web offerings will be good news — allowing them to pass down to their kids the pleasure they themselves had in reading stories firmly rooted in Indian tradition. And no one will be surprised if many of them sneak a peak themselves, as they relive their own childhood!
7 months ago