Guest Column| Comics: The desi scenario – Abhijeet Kini

I strongly believe that Indian comics are here to stay. No matter what cynicism is directed at this medium in our country, the buzz is strong with comics today. So whenever I’m asked during panel discussions or interviews about ‘The current state of Indian comics’, I always has a positive response to it. I find that this kind of a response is something that people aren’t ready to get convinced with, but I feel that it’s a fact. The problem is the pre- programmed mindsets that comics are only for children, and not for adults. Hence I still get a lot of people who come over and tell me at events that “oh, comics! I used to love reading them in my childhood days! So much fun that was. But now we have grown up!” And I always ask them back, “But what has stopped you from enjoying a comic today?” And generally, there’s no answer to that, except a very confused expression. Don’t we all love reading a Tinkle or an Amar Chitra Katha, no matter what our age? The Indian Comic Cons are a blessing to the comic genre today, since it is due to this phenomenon, that we have a lot of new indie (independent) comic publishers who have come in the spotlight. Indian stalwarts like ACK and others have been fan favourites, and now there are new publishers who bring to the audience a variety of new comics. As an indie publisher myself, I’d be speaking for others in the same category when I say that it’s a fantastic feeling when people come and talk to you about your comics and buy them, thus supporting the genre. Some are quick to point out that majority of the comic fans in India are totally into DC or Marvel and that kind of pushes indie comics into a corner. I will not deny the fact that the big two do have a huge fan following here, and I myself enjoy reading and collecting these. But I don’t think it’s fair to compare a legacy which has been around for decades, which has had a cultural impact for almost a century in America, which has so much money being pumped in that it has lead to cinematic universes on the silver screen, to something which is smaller, yet daring enough to exist. Yes, the Indian comics industry maybe a little dwarf compared to the giants, DC and Marvel but why should these be held as a benchmark? Little would people grasp the fact that India too has a comic history, albeit not extremely well documented. If something that has existed for years impacts culture and gives people names to remember, then Tinkle, Chacha Chaudhary, Raj comics, Diamond and others have given ample for people to talk about. Try asking someone (or yourself) the top four names of Indian comic characters, and I’m pretty sure we all know the answers to that. Comics in India today are used not just for entertainment, but several comics are created to spread social messages and awareness. This is not just a noble idea to efficiently use this medium to reach out to more people (yes, comics are easier to understand and reach out to more) but also is using the medium’s potential to the fullest. One doesn’t need to read through pages of preachy messages; a comic makes grasping of a message easier and more fun, thanks to the visual element! Case in point is the Comics for Change initiative, wherein Abhijeet Kini Studios with the Dainik Bhaskar group, had created a series of comics talking about sustainable resources, food and water wastage. The response was terrific and that made not just children, but also adults understand basic concepts which are pro-humanity. There are several other comics around us which cater to causes, and that is a very important fact. Yes, India has successfully utilised the power of comics on the social awareness front. As for the indie genre, my only message to comic fans and readers is to keep supporting this little sub genre. Yes, you may not get the paper quality or the page sizes and volumes that DC and Marvel do, but you sure would get story-lines that would make you think and relate to. Now wouldn’t that be fun? After all, if you compare Gotham to Mumbai, one is a city that’s made up, and the other’s a city that’s made up of real people. Wouldn’t a reflection of reality in comics be more fascinating?! (This article has been contributed by Abhijeet Kini Studios, founder, Abhijeet Kini and does not necessarily subscribe to these views).