For all those who grew up in seventies and eighties middle-class India, Amar Chitra Katha, or ACK as it was popularly referred to among friends, was an important influence if not an iconic cultural artefact. Published at a time when ACK appears to be on the verge of a second lease of life, this compelling new book draws our attention to the stimulating and troubling potentials of Amar Chitra Katha as a force in modern Indian history. Based on a reading of visual practices and the complicated art history informing the comics, the book delves into core issues of communalism, history writing and the ways in which middle-class India negotiates the consumption of products of popular culture to suit its ideological moorings.
During her research the author found that the creators of ACK amalgamated both local art traditions as well as a realist aesthetic borrowed from the calendar art-derivative style of Ravi Varma to produce an evocative yet sober style, appropriate for a largely middle-class, child audience. This was supposedly distant from the “vulgar” Hindi film posters, yet in practice it was completely immersed in the techniques of larger-than-life hyper-representation characteristic of the commercial Hindi film aesthetic. This technique succeeded in furnishing the reader with a visual imaginary of a mythological Hindu past that could at once blend into a real historical continuum, stretching from the ancient past to modern India, rendering myth historical and history mythological.
A provocative and cleverly argued monograph, this book is a must-read not only for scholars and students of modern Indian history, contemporary culture and politics, but also for everyone who grew up with, loved or hated Amar Chitra Katha.
Table Of Contents
List of Illustrations
1. The Serious Comics
2. Uncle Pai and Vaishnav Historiography
3. Signature of Excess
4. Free Spirits: Women in ACK
5. Little History
6. Culture Banking
Select Bibliography and Further Reading