Towards the mid-nineties, the original comics were reprinted in sleeker and more durable editions, with thick cardstock covers and better colour separations. Today, Amar Chitra Katha has a national footprint across all major book retailers, hundreds of small bookstores, and tens of thousands of vendors. It is the best-selling children's publication in most large format stores.
Anant Pai launched Amar Chitra Katha in 1967, which retold traditional Indian folk and mythological stories, the series sold over a 100 million copies since it's inception. This was followed up by another popular comic series titled Tinkle in 1980. Anant Pai was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award recently at India's first ever Comic Convention held in New Delhi. The man behind the popular comic series Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle – Anant Pai more fondly known as Uncle Pai - passed away in Mumbai. 81 year old Pai had been admitted to the hospital after he fell from a staircase last week, he reportedly suffered from a massive heart attack.
The idea behind starting a comicbook series devoted to Indian culture and history came to Pai from a quiz contest aired on Doordarshan in February 1967, in which participants could easily answer questions pertaining to Greek mythology, but were unable to reply to the question "In the Ramayana, who was Rama's mother?". He left his job and started Amar Chitra Katha the same year, with the help of late G L Mirchandani of India Book House, when most other publishers from Allied Publishers to Jaico had rejected the concept. Later, he took on the role of writer, editor and publisher.
The series went on to become a publishing milestone for the Indian comic book scene, selling over 86 million copies of about 440 titles. In 1969, Anant Pai founded Rang Rekha Features, India's first comic and cartoon syndicate, and started the children's magazine Tinkle in 1980. His involvement with the above, and the rapport he shared with his readers earned him the title "Uncle Pai".
Ramu and Shamu, Kapish, Little Raji, Rekha, Fact Fantasy, Funland and Funtime are some of the comic strips created by Pai, most of which continue to appear in newspapers and magazines. He has written and produced two video films, Ekam Sat (the Vedic Concept of God) and The Secret of Success, in English and Hindi.
Pai was shocked that Indian students could answer questions on Greek and Roman mythology, but were ignorant of their own history, mythology and folklore. The original printings of Amar Chitra were not in full colour because of budgetary constraints, the panels were printed using yellow, blue and green. Subsequent issues, however, changed to full colour. All Amar Chitra Katha books stuck to a monthly (later fortnightly) 30-page format, with emphasis on lucid, entertaining storylines. In addition to the 'singles' format the stories are also available as hardcover 3-in-1 and 5-in-1 bundles. There are special editions of the Epics like the Mahabharata which is available in a 3 volume 1300 pages set.
Occasionally there were "bumper" issues with 90 pages, most collecting stories of a similar type from individual issues. As the epic stories became more popular, the team began to publish stories based on Indian history, of men and women belonging to different regions and religions and also on stories based on Sanskrit as well as regional classics.
The continuous popularity of the comics led to reprints being issued frequently, which ensured that the back-issues remained in print throughout the seventies and the eighties. At the height of its popularity, in the mid-eighties, it had been translated into Bengali, Marathi, Assamese, Gujarati, Punjabi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Sanskrit and Urdu and selling half a million copies a month. Some titles were also translated into French, Spanish, German, Swahili, Fijian, Indonesian, and Serbo-Croat.
Endowed with a passion for publishing and comics, Pai failed attempt at creating a children's magazine (Manav, 1954) was followed by a career as a junior executive in the Times of India books division, putting him in the thick of affairs when Indrajal comics was launched by the Times Group.
Anant Pai, popularly known as Uncle Pai, is a renowned educationalist and creator of Indian comics, in particular the Amar Chitra Katha series in 1967, along with the India Book House publishers, and which retold traditional Indian folk tales, mythological stories, and biographies of historical characters. In 1980, he launched Tinkle, a children's anthology, which was started under Rang Rekha Features, India's first comic and cartoon syndicate, that lasted till 1998, with him as the Managing Director.
Born in Karkala, Karnataka to Venkataraya and Susheela Pai, Pai lost his parents at the age of two. At the age of twelve, he came to Mumbai, where he studied in Orient School, Mahim. He studied chemistry, physics and chemical technology at the University of Bombay Department of Chemical Technology (UDCT now UICT) and was a dual degree holder from the University of Bombay.
Amar Chitra Katha is one of India's largest selling comic book series, with more than 90 million copies sold in 20 Indian languages. Founded in 1967, the imprint has more than 400 titles that retell stories from the great Indian epics, mythology, history, folklore, and fables in a comic book format. It was created by Anant Pai, and published by India Book House. In 2007, the imprint and all its titles were acquired by a new venture called ACK Media. On September 17, 2008, a new website by ACK-media was launched.
Pai's other works include a number of books on personality development for children and teenagers, and a series of audio book versions of Amar Chitra Katha stories, where he plays the role of narrator-storyteller. Amar Chitra Katha was launched at a time when Indian society was slowly moving away from the traditional joint family system, because of (among other things) socio-economic constraints and urbanization. In a joint family system, grandparents would regale the children of the household with tales from folklore and the epics, and the Amar Chitra Katha series served to fill the void left by grandparents in the smaller nuclear families in urban areas. The choice of English as the primary language led it to reach the majority of children who studied in English medium schools.