CBAM Summit: Does the magic of regional resonate with the masses? Experts weigh in

While regional comics with their local flavours have successfully moved the pulse of India for years, it is important to evaluate if it still holds the charm when we look at its commerce side. In order to aggregate the regional language comicverse, the panel, The power of India’s diversity & languages, saw an enriching discussion spanning the history and viability of the regional language comicverse in this day and age.

Moderated by writer and podcaster Vijayendra Mohanty, the panelists included Fenil Comics founder Fenil Sherdiwala, Chintoo Comics co-creator Charuhas Pandit, ComicsbySatra creator Satrajit Choudhury, graphic novelist and illustrator Harsho Mohan Chattoraj and Amar Chitra Katha executive editor Reena Puri.

Speaking about his journey, Sherdiwala narrated, “At the age of 12 I had created a superhero called Faulaad. From designing and illustration, I had done everything. Every fan has a wish to create a character that they can present to the public. I took it seriously in the year 2010 and launched my first comic book and s lot of people objected saying why I released it in Hindi. 2010 was the year when I started Fenil Comics; creating six superheroes. I also started a superhero named Prince in which I portrayed myself.”

Pandit whose work has only been published in Marathi, informed that he mainly did cartoon strips; which are a combination of cartoons and comics. He shared, “I’ve been doing it since 1991. It is called Chintoo; I created it with my friend Prabhakar Wadekar. We did it for 22 years in the newspaper.”

Having sold more than fifty thousand copies via facebook, the boom of digital has indeed worked in his favour. He expounded, “In 2013, I started it on social media. Facebook is the main place where we publish. Two Marathi feature films have been made on this character: Chintoo. Chintoo and Chintoo 2 got a very good response. We have a few Chintoo songs also. Chintoo books are sold in lakhs. Recently we sold more than 50,000 books via Facebook. And recently I started the Chintoo animation Youtube Channel which also got a very good response. These are very small animated clips. Each clip has more than five to six lakhs viewership.”

Chowdary whose forte is purely making digital comics has seen a substantial amount of success with regional language comics. He shared, “I started directly on digital as a hobby. The moment I switched to Bengali, it went viral. That’s when I decided to test the waters further. That’s when it struck me as to why don’t go the Korea or Japan way and publish directly on mobile. Right now my focus is this app called ‘Mojaru’; these are mainly vertical comics. Our focus is purely on regional stories. We are trying to procure stories from different parts of India who have their own unique mythology. We are looking at stories from Mizoram, Bengal, Kerala, U.P etc. We would offer all these stories in multiple Indian languages.”

The panel’s emergent theme was that the digital sales are working to the advantage of comics. Puri has worked with Amar Chitra Katha for over 30 years, having joined in the year 1991 with Anant Pai. She recounted, “At the time I was looking after Tinkle and it was being brought out in three languages. Mr. Pai was already getting it translated because he believed comics have to reach every child in the country. We did the biography of Manik Prabhu which was done in English but later translated into Kannada, Marathi and Telegu. We create the original content in English and side by side get it translated into regional languages. We recently did Mahabharat. Our original content is our heritage.”

Chattoraj who has been working as a freelancer with various major comic book stakeholders ranging from Amar Chitra Katha to Shandesh opines that the digital medium has indeed improved style in the way artwork is done and the sketches are made right from the page sizes down to the dimensions. He shared, “I am based in Kolkata and my regional language is in Bengali. There is a lovely Bengali magazine called Sandesh over here which was started by Satyajit Ray’s grandfather and I’ve been working with them on a freelance basis for close to 25 years or so and every once in a while we work on comics for them. In the recent times, last year as a matter of fact, comic anthology ‘chotuspun’ was published which contains four different comics by me. Some of these comics were published previously in Switzerland and then they were translated in Bengali and published over here.

There are other writers also whom I focus on; like Shrichand Mukhopadhay whose books are taken and transferred into the graphic novel format. They have been published in English as well as Bengali formats. Apart from that, I remember doing one more graphic novel recently; The Life of Netaji. I’ve worked with Amar Chitra Katha for over 10 years and they like doing the same themes and topics. The language diversity is actually good because recently I have started a project for an interesting company called Pratillipi in which I am also dealing with Hindi. That is interesting because in India, we hardly see comics apart from English.”

The panel echoed that the digital medium has indeed opened the gates of opportunities insofar as the proliferation of comicverse goes.