Abhijeet Kini talks to the creator of Chacha Chaudhary, Pran, who tells us more about how got into comics and his favourite creations.
Comic Con 2013 had a handful of pretty good panel discussion and talks but the superstar guests from abroad were not present this year. Thankfully, the organizers of Comic Con arranged for one of the powerhouses of Indian comics, Pran, to come visit his fans. The legendary cartoonist, who has been creating comics for decades now, was one of the most well-known speakers to take to the stage and judging by how much the audience applauded throughout the session, he did not let them down. Abhijeet Kini, creator of Angry Maushi and illustrator for many others, took up the role of interviewer on the day and he was more than willing to divert as much of the spotlight as possible to his special guest. We picked a few choice extracts from the hour-long interview which you can check out below.
Abhijeet Kini: Tell us a little more about how you started out in comics. How did you decide that comics was your path?
Pran: When I completed my education I did my MA in Political Science and then got my four-year diploma from the Sir J J School Of Arts in Mumbai and when I told my family that I wanted to become a cartoonist, nobody was happy. They felt that I should teach in a college or perhaps settle down and do some sort of government job but anyway during my college days some of my cartoons had already been published in magazines and newspapers. This was enough to encourage me because once your name appears in the newspapers, you want your name to appear again and again in the newspapers. At that time, all comics in India which were being published such as Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Superman, Blondie and Dennis The Menace were all from abroad. So I thought why don’t we try to make our own Indian comics that are based on Indian characters and local themes, so that people can relate to them. I also felt most Western comics were not even understood by the reader, so I thought if I made them (Indian comics and characters) then they can enjoy them. In the initial years, like any other creative work such as poetry, music or anything, I had to struggle.
Initially, three newspapers came forward and gave me place to show my comics. One was Navbharat Times the other was Punjab Kesari and the Deccan Herald. Over time the number of subscribers went from three or four to eight and then to 12 and now we have about 35 newspapers that subscribe to my comics.
AK: Most of the comics that you have created are seen as things that children read and your work is for a younger audience. What do you think of the Indian conception that comics are only for children and not for adults and young adults?
Pran: Well even in the Western countries comics are meant to be for teenagers and children and moreover I wanted to give them clean entertainment. In foreign countries comics are accused of spoiling the language of children by “twisting” the words. I thought that my sentences and my scripts would be grammatically would correct and I don’t twist the words. Moreover, my comics should focus on the lives of the common people. I never believed in unnatural things like flying in the sky because they are not possible. How can it be possible to fly? Man cannot do that. So all my stories belong to the day-to-day lives of the people. Chacha Chaudhary handles problems which the common man has to face. 45 years ago, people faced simple problems such as pick-pocketing, burglary or at the most a bank robbery. Now times have changed and our countries have to face new problems like terrorism and bomb blasts and so on. I had to keep pace with the times. If a man of small-stature like Chacha Chaudhary solves a problem like terrorism it will look unnatural because terrorists have much more sophisticated weaponry.
This is why I created Sabu, who is a tall and happy person. Even while creating Sabu, I felt I wanted children to say that they haven’t seen anybody so tall before. We Indians are short people or perhaps of medium height and this is why I decided to say that Sabu came from Jupiter! I created an atmosphere where tall people lived. As the story goes, Sabu took a voyage to Earth by spacecraft and he landed on the snow-clad mountains of India and he saw that this snow melted to form the rivers that run through India and he saw all the green trees and flowers but above everything he liked the hospitality of the Indian people. He liked staying in India and since then he become a loyal colleague of Chacha Chaudhary.
AK: Let’s go back to the Jupiter-wala Sabu and ask you two question about him. What is his real height? Some times he’s as tall as a one or two storey building and at other times he’s just really tall and question two is how exactly did the whole “a volcano erupts in Jupiter when he is angry” come about?
Pran: (laughs) Good! Well when I created Chacha Chaudhary 35 or 40 years ago, computers had just come to the United States and other such countries. I knew then that this is the thing that will dominate the whole world in a few years. So I coined the phrase, “Chacha Chaudhary’s mind runs faster than a computer.” Similarly, when Sabu gets again I coined the phrase about the volcano. People think that these two sentences are like proverbs. I was told a few years ago that when the film Don was released, there was a scene where a telephone call takes place in a corner of the city where Shah Rukh Khan said the Chacha Chaudhary phrase (Your mind is faster than a computer.” to the villain. So I went to see the film with my family and I thought to myself “Alright, it’s good that my hard labor is bearing fruit”.
AK: Chacha Chaudhary has his own display at the American Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art? How does that make you feel?
Pran: Since you say these words I feel great satisfaction. I did not think about it but it does make me happy now that you brought it up. Not just Chacha Chaudhary but every character that a cartoonist creates does not get famous or loved overnight. I am just really happy to have my hard work of 45 years recognized. I would like to thank you and all the people who made this happen.