Thursday, June 23, 2016

How Amar Chitra Katha is going back to the future

                                Jasodhara Banerjee
 Forbes India Staff
                                                                     Deputy Head of Desk



O
ne of the most enduring tales within the Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) family is that of founder Anant Pai, sitting among children, reading from one of the much-loved comic books, and enthralling his young audiences. It is, therefore, fitting that as ACK prepares to celebrate its golden jubilee next year, it is in the process of retracing its steps to what Pai held close to his heart, and was so good at—old-fashioned story-telling.

Coming up over the next year will be a series of events held across several malls in different cities, which will seek to recreate Uncle Pai’s (as the comic’s creator is fondly known) story-telling sessions. Malls may seem like an unlikely venue for Pai’s gathering of schoolchildren, but not only are they the modern-day spaces for community activities, ACK also has the backing of one of India’s largest retailers: Kishore Biyani’s Future Group bought a minority stake in ACK Media in March 2011, followed by a majority stake in July 2011. (Elephant Capital holds the minority stake.)

Those within the company point to Biyani’s attempts at producing films—Na Tum Jaano Na Hum (2002), starring Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan and Esha Deol—as indicative of his inclination towards creative ventures. But, creativity apart, the founder and group CEO of Future Group, which owns hypermarket chain Big Bazaar, is also said to have a deep love for everything Indian. And what can be more Indian than Amar Chitra Katha, which has also been published in more than 36 languages and distributed in 12 countries.

“We are thinking of a big mela where we create an environment of fun and storytelling,” says Anuraag Agarwal, head of strategy, mergers and acquisitions at Future Group, who has been the interim CEO at ACK for the past six months. “We plan to have workshops with parents and children; there will be a character parade, ACK selfies and the trademark ACK Quiz.”

The event is representative of ACK’s efforts to go back to the basics—tell stories and engage with their readers—after having meandered for a bit in its quest to stay relevant. “Over the last few years, there were some efforts to enter the animation sector, and go on to digital platforms,” says Agarwal, speaking of the two films—Tripura(2011, premiered on Cartoon Network) and Sons of Ram (2012, released in theatres)—the YouTube channel and the app launched by ACK Media. “But there was not enough push within the company to make these a success. We also learnt some things along the way: Such as, a lot of children don’t really have access to apps, and a lot of parents would rather have their children read books than sit with an electronic device. So we are focusing on our books once again.”

It would be interesting to see what this renewed focus does to a product that, without any marketing push, has managed to sell an average of 5 lakh copies every month since 2013-2014. This shift in approach, however, has meant a rejig within the Future Group departments that have been trimmed—many of ACK’s old-timers are no longer with the company—to make them more agile, to flatten the hierarchy within teams and increase interactivity between them. Agarwal himself divides his time between handling mergers and acquisitions, and managing ACK, a job that he seems to thoroughly enjoy. “Where else can you read comic books as part of your job?” he laughs.

Agarwal says there is a “contra-trend” among readers who want their children to read more of Indian content rather than Western. “People want their children to be familiar with their roots,” he says.

This is exactly what had prompted Uncle Pai to start Amar Chitra Katha in the first place. The legend goes that Pai, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 81, and his wife Lalita were walking along Delhi’s Karol Bagh area when they came across a shop where a quiz show was being telecast on TV, still a novelty in India. As they joined the small crowd gathered outside the shop to watch the programme, the quizmaster asked: “Who is the Greek god of the seas?” One of the teams answered, “Poseidon.” However, the next question—“Who is Ram’s mother?”—stumped the participants.

Pai saw such uncertainty about India’s mythology in his nephews and nieces too. He realised that youngsters in India were growing up on a diet of Western culture and information, and remained oblivious to the riches of India’s mythology, heroes and legends. Thus began his lifelong endeavour to tell the country’s greatest stories to its children.

“Whatever ACK is, is because of the vision of Uncle Pai,” says Reena I Puri, executive editor of ACK Media, and a 25-year veteran of the company. “He did not start it as a money-making enterprise. He wanted to reach out to the children of the country through our story-telling heritage.”

Pai had worked with the books division of Bennett Coleman & Co, when they had launched Mandrake and Phantom under the Indrajal Comics series in 1964. With the urge to start a series on Indian comics, he approached the Mirchandanis of India Book House (publishers and distributors of books and magazines since 1952), who agreed to become distributors of Pai’s comic books. Thus, Amar Chitra Katha was born in Mumbai in 1967. “They agreed to give Uncle Pai a space to work in and also promised to print what he created, although, at that time, they did not pay him a salary,” says Puri. The first title to be published—scripted by Pai, and illustrated by another much-revered name, Ram Waeerkar—was Krishna, in 1970.

How Amar Chitra Katha is going back to the future




O
ne of the most enduring tales within the Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) family is that of founder Anant Pai, sitting among children, reading from one of the much-loved comic books, and enthralling his young audiences. It is, therefore, fitting that as ACK prepares to celebrate its golden jubilee next year, it is in the process of retracing its steps to what Pai held close to his heart, and was so good at—old-fashioned story-telling.

Coming up over the next year will be a series of events held across several malls in different cities, which will seek to recreate Uncle Pai’s (as the comic’s creator is fondly known) story-telling sessions. Malls may seem like an unlikely venue for Pai’s gathering of schoolchildren, but not only are they the modern-day spaces for community activities, ACK also has the backing of one of India’s largest retailers: Kishore Biyani’s Future Group bought a minority stake in ACK Media in March 2011, followed by a majority stake in July 2011. (Elephant Capital holds the minority stake.)

Those within the company point to Biyani’s attempts at producing films—Na Tum Jaano Na Hum (2002), starring Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan and Esha Deol—as indicative of his inclination towards creative ventures. But, creativity apart, the founder and group CEO of Future Group, which owns hypermarket chain Big Bazaar, is also said to have a deep love for everything Indian. And what can be more Indian than Amar Chitra Katha, which has also been published in more than 36 languages and distributed in 12 countries.

“We are thinking of a big mela where we create an environment of fun and storytelling,” says Anuraag Agarwal, head of strategy, mergers and acquisitions at Future Group, who has been the interim CEO at ACK for the past six months. “We plan to have workshops with parents and children; there will be a character parade, ACK selfies and the trademark ACK Quiz.”

The event is representative of ACK’s efforts to go back to the basics—tell stories and engage with their readers—after having meandered for a bit in its quest to stay relevant. “Over the last few years, there were some efforts to enter the animation sector, and go on to digital platforms,” says Agarwal, speaking of the two films—Tripura(2011, premiered on Cartoon Network) and Sons of Ram (2012, released in theatres)—the YouTube channel and the app launched by ACK Media. “But there was not enough push within the company to make these a success. We also learnt some things along the way: Such as, a lot of children don’t really have access to apps, and a lot of parents would rather have their children read books than sit with an electronic device. So we are focusing on our books once again.”

It would be interesting to see what this renewed focus does to a product that, without any marketing push, has managed to sell an average of 5 lakh copies every month since 2013-2014. This shift in approach, however, has meant a rejig within the Future Group departments that have been trimmed—many of ACK’s old-timers are no longer with the company—to make them more agile, to flatten the hierarchy within teams and increase interactivity between them. Agarwal himself divides his time between handling mergers and acquisitions, and managing ACK, a job that he seems to thoroughly enjoy. “Where else can you read comic books as part of your job?” he laughs.

Agarwal says there is a “contra-trend” among readers who want their children to read more of Indian content rather than Western. “People want their children to be familiar with their roots,” he says.

This is exactly what had prompted Uncle Pai to start Amar Chitra Katha in the first place. The legend goes that Pai, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 81, and his wife Lalita were walking along Delhi’s Karol Bagh area when they came across a shop where a quiz show was being telecast on TV, still a novelty in India. As they joined the small crowd gathered outside the shop to watch the programme, the quizmaster asked: “Who is the Greek god of the seas?” One of the teams answered, “Poseidon.” However, the next question—“Who is Ram’s mother?”—stumped the participants.

Pai saw such uncertainty about India’s mythology in his nephews and nieces too. He realised that youngsters in India were growing up on a diet of Western culture and information, and remained oblivious to the riches of India’s mythology, heroes and legends. Thus began his lifelong endeavour to tell the country’s greatest stories to its children.

“Whatever ACK is, is because of the vision of Uncle Pai,” says Reena I Puri, executive editor of ACK Media, and a 25-year veteran of the company. “He did not start it as a money-making enterprise. He wanted to reach out to the children of the country through our story-telling heritage.”

Pai had worked with the books division of Bennett Coleman & Co, when they had launched Mandrake and Phantom under the Indrajal Comics series in 1964. With the urge to start a series on Indian comics, he approached the Mirchandanis of India Book House (publishers and distributors of books and magazines since 1952), who agreed to become distributors of Pai’s comic books. Thus, Amar Chitra Katha was born in Mumbai in 1967. “They agreed to give Uncle Pai a space to work in and also promised to print what he created, although, at that time, they did not pay him a salary,” says Puri. The first title to be published—scripted by Pai, and illustrated by another much-revered name, Ram Waeerkar—was Krishna, in 1970.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Maruti Suzuki Alto named presenting sponsor of Comic Con India for the year 2016


Press Release

Maruti Suzuki Alto named presenting sponsor of Comic Con India for the year 2016


  • The shows include Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore & Hyderabad Comic Con 2016
  • Maruti Suzuki Alto will also be a part of the 3 key special events Comic Con India will host this year entitled “Comic Book Celebration Week, Indian Championship of Cosplay & Comic Con India Awards”
India, 22 June 2016: Comic Con India is pleased to announce Maruti Suzuki Alto as the presenting sponsor of all the Comic Con India shows this calendar year which includes Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Comic Con India is dedicated to expanding India's popular culture by creating high profile events that cater to fans of not only comics, but also, gaming, movies, television, merchandise, toys & more.

Comic Con India is part of the Reedpop family of events, which is dedicated to producing world-class celebrations of popular culture around the world with events like New York Comic Con, Oz Comic Con, Shanghai Comic Con, Star Wars Celebration among many others.

Comic Con India (CCI) shows attracted over 1,50,000 visitors across 5 cities in FY 2015-16, they are among the biggest consumer events in the country. CCI has become the the hottest platform for brands to engage with young consumers. Attracting the key demographic between 18-36 year olds and giving some of the best fan experiences in the country. The CCI visitors are not only eager consumers of the latest & the best, but they are also influencers and trendsetters for content, products & services in the country.

Tapping into this energy has become key for youth-oriented brands and therefore natural fit for a brand such as ALTO.

Mr. Jatin Varma, Founder, Comic Con India, states, “As our shows evolve and become THE places for celebrating popular culture, we looked towards finding brands who would partner with us in this endeavour as well as understand the value of our platform. With Maruti Suzuki - Alto we certainly have found the right partner and i am truly excited in having them on-board for our journey this year!

Mr. Vinay Pant, Associate Vice President, Marketing, Maruti Suzuki India, said, Alto is a brand for the younger generation who believe in chasing their dreams and passion. Comic Con is one such platform where such youngsters meet up and share their love for comics. We found a great synergy between Comic Con India and Alto. Alto is associated with Comic Con for over a year now and the response has been very encouraging. We saw very high engagement rating with the target audience and the user generated content was exceptionally high. This year too we aim to reach out more youngsters, engage and establish connect right from the beginning.

Besides the main events, Maruti Suzuki Alto will be a part of the 3 key special events Comic Con India will host this year entitled “Comic Book Celebration Week, Indian Championship of Cosplay & Comic Con India Awards.” These national properties will extend the reach of the main shows, specially focusing on Artists, Writers & Cosplayers.
Over and above the mentioned activities, Comic Con India plans to do over 30 Fan Meet ups and celebration Nights throughout the year to engage with the fans on a regular basis. Alto will be a prominent part of all such celebrations throughout the year and will add a lot of value to the fan experience.

FYI:

Save the dates
Alto Hyderabad Comic Con - 24-25th Sept 2016
Alto Mumbai Film & Comic Con - 22-23rd Oct 2016
Alto Bangalore Comic Con - 12-13th Nov 2016
Alto Delhi Comic Con - 9-11th Dec 2016.

About Comic Con India
Comic Con India is a unique event celebrating the illustrated medium, which brings together the whole comics industry and related fields such as Merchandise, Toys, Games, Films and Animation, along with fans of this culture from all age groups. It has now grown to multiple events across the country. The mission has now evolved to create unique pop culture events and engage with fans all across the country.

The properties include Delhi Comic Con, Mumbai Comic Con, Bangalore Comic Con & Hyderabad Comic Con. Along with a traveling property - Comic Con Express, which was last held in Pune in 2016.
Comic Con India (CCI) took a big leap as they recently (In September 2014) announced a joint venture with Reed Exhibitions; part of the FTSE listed Reed Elsevier Group, to grow the pop culture space in India and bring world class events to Indian fans. The Comic Con India team will now work closely with the ‘ReedPOP’ division of Reed Exhibitions, the largest producer of pop culture events in the world.
With this JV in place, CCI enters the burgeoning ReedPOP portfolio of pop culture events which includes New York Comic Con, PAX, the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, Oz Comic-Con, Singapore Toy, Gaming & Comics Convention and Star Wars Celebration among many others.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Flying in from Sri Lanka for a taste of Tex in Tamil

CHENNAI: It is not everyday that one decides to take a flight to another country to buy Tamil comic books at a book fair. Meet V Subramanya, a 65-year-old from Jaffna, Sri Lanka, who loves his comic books and has visited the Bapasi Book Fair in the city after a gap of three years.
“I have been reading them for over 25 years, but during the war I lost most of my collection and am now trying to get them back.” Dressed in a simple lungi and shirt, Subramanya speaks in his heavily accented Sri Lankan Tamil. “I was in a refugee camp for two years. My favourites are Tex and tiger comics.
Tex is a comic book sold across Europe, the story of a crime fighting cowboy set in early 20th Century America. The Tamil translated version is sold in the State by Muthu Comics. “We have been selling comics from 1974. There is a special crowd for comics. Tex is like MGR; he has fans in France, Belgium, and England, we translate the books to Tamil,” said R Ganesh, who manages the stall at the book fair. “We first started with Irumbukai Mayavi comics but Tex comics overtook the sales.”