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The Classic Popular: Amar Chitra Katha, 1967-2007. By Nandini Chandra. New Delhi: Yoda Press, 2008. 260pp + 8pp. colour section.
Paperback: ISBN-10: 8190363433 || ISBN-13: 9788190363433
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Library of Congress: PN 6790 I4 C48 2008
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.
Nandini Chandra teaches English at Hansraj College, New Delhi.
Fernandes, Naresh. [2008?] "ACK ACK gun." Time Out Delhi. [read online]