There are times when the changes you subject certain things to have a tendency to go against their very nature. Take for instance the recent collaboration between Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) and a cellular service provider. The partnership intends to realise Anant ‘Uncle’ Pai’s farsighted dream of getting each Indian acquainted with our rich cultural heritage — something he’s been doing very well for the past 49 years — in a more sophisticated way.
There is hardly anyone among us who is not familiar with the phenomenon called ACK. I read the last issue of Tinkle in ten minutes flat, standing inside one of the Capital’s swanky malls’ flashy bookstores.
Having picked up a copy of one of my childhood’s most prized possessions (finding space for a carton full of ACK magazines continues to bother my mom till date) after ages, I noticed how drastically it had changed from the good ol’ days. Afraid of competition, it seems, I thought smugly.
Like everyone around me, all my limited knowledge of the diversity of Indian culture can be attributed to ACK. After all, from where else could we have learned that demons, unlike gods and heroes, are dark-complexioned, have big, yellow teeth and curly hair?
There was a charm in spending summer holidays reading the adventures of Suppandi, Moolah Naasruddin, about the Mahabharata, Shiva and Sati, Hiranyakashyapu, among others, lying under a still fan. The comic would occasionally double up as a hand-held punkah.
Then, I guess, my age became directly proportionate to Uncle’s fears about competition, for he started employing new marketing techniques. The ACK website and this recent step are testimony.
Frankly, it wouldn’t have disappointed me if the changes were restricted to just using brighter colours and better illustrations or arming Shikari Sambhu with a chic automatic or even giving Vaman another set of abs. But putting the repository of our most interesting and impressive history on our Nokias and Blackberrys still doesn’t, somehow, excite me.
For what made the ACK an all-time favourite was its simplicity and the safe distance it had maintained from the changing trends. After all, where’s the charm in hiding your cellphone behind textbooks?