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Saturday, November 02, 2013

Book (s) Review : ‘Mahabharata’ (ACK)

I first read the Mahabharata, thanks mainly to two people. My maternal grandfather and my father. Both had their own reasons for making me read them and both had read the series more than once. My first ever reading of the Mahabharata was way back in 1986, in the wonderful world of Amar ChitraKatha.

Not only are ACK comics, the first ever reading I did but thanks to its script by writers like Kamala Chandrakant, TMP Nedungadi, Sumomna Roy, Mihir Lal Mitra, Subba Rao, Lopamudra, Mohan Swaminathan, Margie Sastry, Yagya Sharma and Shubha Kandhekar, the book remains in my head to date. 

But that’s not all, its excellent art work done by Dilip Kadam has added to the effect. Not only do the words stay, but what remains etched in my mind are the images and colours.

Krishna talking of the Bhagavad Gita and Arjuna kneeling down in the middle of the battlefield to hear it are the first pictures that are on every comic book in the entire Mahabharata series. A total of 42 volumes make up this longest epic in the ACK comic book format. (I did lose the last two of these series, but I did read and as I said it remains in my memory.) 

Krishna apparently had lost weight, in these series because his image is definitely thinner from the third book onwards. :) What makes them different is that they are the first ever comics, which you read as a child and whatever you look at afterwards will always remind you of it. I could almost see everything come to life thanks to these comic books. The images had such a great impact that it is very difficult to get out of your head. 

Phrases such as ‘So be it’, or even ‘Hail so and so’ and pictures of all the celestials coming together and scattering flowers on the mortals are images that are so well imprinted on the mind. Also, images of the ‘Rakshasas’ such as Baka, Kirmira and Hidimba convey adequate meanness. Of special interest was the volume 30 of the series. The writer, Mohan Swaminathan wrote the entire Bhagavad Gita in a brilliant 2 page rendering, in this piece.

(Of special interest, is The Gita, which was scripted by Anant Pai himself with illustration by Pratap Mullick. This volume is not part of the Mahabharata series, but due to the fact that they are very much a rather important portion of the series, I am mentioning it here.)

Coming back to the Mahabharata series, almost every character is drawn and their words scripted well within the conceptualised imagery. I almost thought that Krishna’s and Draupadi’s original colours were blue and Arjuna’s was indigo! The editor, Anant Pai, originally had a 60 volume plan but it was cut down to 42. Incidentally, the Mahabharata series produced by BR Chopra ran on television at pretty much the same time. They generated more interest due to the comics, for sure.

The best thing about these comics is that they have changed my entire understanding of the Mahabharata. While I do like ACK, there are several other twists to the tales. The stories that are coming out nowadays that are distinctive, and of special interest due to what I had originally read in ACK.

The volumes that are coming out nowadays are not only in the original comic book format, but are also available as ebooks and apps. 

It makes it easier for me to read the Mahabharata rewritten, with all these changes and newer concepts. Ideology is a whole new ballgame, and the newer they seem to be the better it is for the writer, reader, publisher and the marketer.
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