It takes tremendous amounts of grotesque perversity to detect ulterior, sinister motives behind producing children’s comics. That’s perhaps why it takes only a Tehelka to do the job. Their target is the Amar Chitra Katha series of comics that educated millions of children mostly about India’s history and mythology. ACK is a case study of how to make history-teaching to kids as an activity they enjoy, and look forward to. But in Tehelka’s world, it is tantamount to brainwashing the kids with dangerous, nationalist, and communal food.
The bearded Muslim and the dark-skinned person are rendered stock villains in a vast majority of the 600-odd original ACK titles. Women characters enjoy emancipation in the narratives but are framed so that their bodies are viewed through the eyes of the ravishing villain. Lower caste heroes and saints are pushed to the margins by Brahmin characters. [...] Yusuf Lien aka Bangalorewala, ACK’s lone Muslim painter, whose poignant Mirabai won awards, eventually found the ill-concealed propaganda too much to work with. “Muslim freedom fighters and Aurangzeb were sidelined and ‘grey-zone’ mystics such as Dara Shikoh and Kabir were chosen as representatives of the Muslim,” [...] “When I first started rereading these comics I was startled at how insidious it was myself.” [...] Waekar, who was just as shrewd, drew on other acceptable sources, which is why we see in one Waekar panel a Ram who bears a striking resemblance to Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan. It was also Waekar who established the ACK convention of fair complexions for gods and human beings while depicting demons as universally dark. [...] A first look at Ganesh’s Tales of Amnesia, a 21-part comic series, does not reveal anything unusual, so familiar are we with ACK or, more likely, with the memory of it. Look again. Dark nipples, heads on ritual salvers in the hands of gentle ladies, a woman performing oral sex and monstrous bodies composed of fragments of the pink limbs that all ACK heroines had. [...] “ACK comics disseminate prescriptive models of nationalism, religious expression and sexuality. I’d like to create mythology that poses questions rather than clear answers.” [..] In India Chandra’s book may cause some disquiet among very scrupulous parents. But Chandra says that she admires ACK for what it is and sees no reason for exile — just some distance. She says, “ACK was avowedly for children but the creators knew that adults were the actual buyers. They needed to be amused and interested first. There is also a clear understanding that children are canny and don’t need to be protected. They need to learn that the world contains evil and duplicity.
This piece of dung is beyond even contempt. Can’t these folks at least let children have some fun? What is the intent of this book and this review? Literary pedophilia?
Tarun Tejpal employs the journalist-reporter equivalent of professional hitmen.
This blog throws an open challenge to Chandra as well as the reviewer to engage in a debate on the subject.