I have had an interesting childhood. Having never been intrigued by sports overmuch (partly because I wasnÔÇÖt good at anything), I used to vicariously lead the life of superheroes, local as well as of phoren import, fighting their battles, facing their dilemmas, adoring their love-interests (ShaktimaanÔÇÖs Geeta, the feisty reporter comes to oneÔÇÖs mind), and saving the world, always in the nick of time. I hadnÔÇÖt cultivated the patience to read books, then, all I read was Champak, Chandamama and Chacha Chaudhary. With comics and Cartoon Network as my staple, I used to create my own imaginary villains whom I used to beat up black and blue.
I grew up. Marvel and DC began to dominate the Indian Comics Market (previously Diamond Comics had a license to print the adventures of Batman and Spiderman for the Indian masses). It took a death of a titan to make me realize what we have lost. PranÔÇÖs death brought home the sad truth that we have neglected our desi superheroes for too long.
India has always been a land of Superheroes. Our mythology is teeming with heroes of superhuman strength and astute mind ÔÇô Rama, Krishna, Arjun, Bheema, Hanumaan, Shiva, Indra, Kaali, Durga, Eklavya, Vishnu, Abhimanyu, Ghatotkacha. Our history and culture have provided us with the tales of Emperor Ashoka, Birbal, Tenali Raman, Vikram & Betaal, and Rani Lakshmibai.
We have incorporated Sindbad and Alibaba, foreigners really, in our own Superhero potpourri. Amar Chitra Katha has immortalized these characters in its endearing and colorful comics. Our morals and our conscience owe much to these tales told and retold from our grannyÔÇÖs lap as well as the pages of ACK.
Clever Chacha v/s Rowdy Raka
Speaking about Diamond Comics always conjures up the image of a rustic, yet shrewd Chacha Chaudhary with the ginormous Sabu, from Jupiter with love, fighting dacoits and ruffians who seem to have a perpetual axe to grind with our beloved Chacha whose brain, allegedly, functions faster than a computer. Yet for all its idiosyncrasies and clich├®s – cash hidden inside turban, villains with misfiring guns, a bandit named Dhamaka Singh (RakaÔÇÖs aide), kids playing costly pranks, a volcano erupting on Jupiter every time Sabu gets angry ÔÇô Pran had created a world that is totally relatable, and enormously entertaining.
But, Diamond Comics isnÔÇÖt just Chacha Chaudhary! Billoo, Pinki, Shrimati Ji, Meeku, Channi Chachi, Mahabali Shaka, Jasoos Chakram, Dynamite, Jimmy Hendricks ÔÇô this entire motley bunch of characters, had widely entertained Indian masses looking for some wholesome fun as in those days the only firangi tadkas available were Phantom and Mandrake.
The Desi Avengers!
True that some of the characters lack depth, with many being cheap imitation of foreign classics. Our futuristic sodium and potassium guns having the capability to bore holes into the enemyÔÇÖs guts is plain childish, but so is being bitten by a radioactive spider. Out there is an Indian Avengers team, created by Raj Comics, called the Protectors of Earth and Mankind [POEM].
We have Nagraj, with venomous breath, superhuman strength and telepathic power, Super Commando Dhruva created along the lines of Batman, a vigilante and anti-hero named Doga (Anurag Kashyap is planning to make a film about him),
and various others, interestingly called – Wonderman Parmanu, Bheriya, Tiranga, Shakti, Super Indian, Inspector SteelÔÇªÔÇª
And the sad thing is we really donÔÇÖt know much about any of them. Someday, when we truly have a comic-culture in India, these characters would truly be appreciated. I would really, really love to see a movie featuring Captain Vyom, Fauladi Singh, Agniputra Abhay and Aaryamaan. That is a sincere wish from a 90ÔÇÖs kidÔÇª
Long Live Chacha Chaudhary!