Thursday, May 24, 2007

Indian Comics vs English Comics

Now don't get me wrong. I have been brought up on a healthy (some say more than required) dose of “Amar Chitra Katha”s and “Indrajal Comics”[1] and later Tintin and Asterix, among other comics. Even today, I have a normal book-lovers' obsession with comics (and have been teased by not a few of my so called grown-up collegues). What I am trying to say here is that I am a fan of comics and graphic novels. But, recently every time I have read Indian comics, my reactions oscillate between uncontrollable laughter[2] and skin crawling.

But when I think of it objectively, there are not that many differences between Indian comics and their US counterparts[3], apart from an obvious difference between picture and page quality (I don't know why). After all, under it all, Nagraj is a mutant. Super Commando Dhruv and Batman are both products of superior training, and not acquired superpowers. If we had “dhaad” and “sataik”[4] in Hindi comics, we have “pow”s and “biff”s in English ones (and both are equally annoying after a while). If most things in Hindi comics are explained away by “tantravidya”, there is mutation and technology (if not alien intervention) in english ones. So, what exactly is it in Indian comics of today that get my goat whenever I get my hands on them?

To answer this question, I tried to make a list of things which made me irritated in the comics I read recently, and came up with certain points/questions:

  1. Errors: Shaolin monks called “ninjas” (collectively, not as name of one of them)? Chinese martial artist carrying nunchucks? I don't know the post-mortem rituals of shaolin monks or ninjas, else I would have said one of the earthquakes near Japan-China border must be caused by generations of ninjas and shaolin monks turning in their graves.
    And at the cost of sounding pedantic[5], I am pretty sure that the environmental conditions on Jupiter will make it impossible to have volcanoes there, much less android life forms. This might come under artistic license and fun, but after a while, it does get under your skin, and makes it impossible to see beyond these glaring mistakes/errors. Is this ignorance or simple misinformation?

  2. Unintentional Jokes: When a person is supposed to come to “eastern corner” of a specific geographic feature, can we expect to find a board hammered in ground there proclaiming a particular spot as “Eastern Corner”?
    Should a private plane of a wealthy satellite channel owner in today's day and age be a propeller-driven piece of antiquity? What happened to all jets in India?
    I am pretty sure Hindi is not a language well-suited to communicate action-words. You can separate “biff” on different lines, but cannot have “dh-aa-d” on different lines, can you?

  3. Copy: I am aware that US/UK comics are around for quite a long time, and they too get repetitive or sound like copies of each other after you have read them in sufficient quantities. But then, so many ideas in Indian comics sound like obvious copies of other comics (a league of superheroes in particular country is one such idea) that they get irritating pretty quick.

And don't even get me started on Indian Superheroes on television.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list by any means, and is a list of my opinions after all. Do you think I have missed any points? Have I misinterpreted/misrepresented anything? What do you think about Indian comics and superheroes?

[1](remember Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon and Bahadur?
[2]After all, there is a “comic” in comics.
[3]I haven't been exposed to many comics from other countries, that's why.
[4]Can't spell it any other way, can I?
[5]Who said geeky?

Quote of The Day:

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.
- Albert Einstein

Monday, May 21, 2007

Fa Fe

Marathi has had its share of paperback detectives and kid detectives, but probably the most famous of all Marathi detectives is a kid, who goes by the name of “Faster Fene”. If English children had their “Secret Seven”s and “Famous Five”s (about whom we learnt later), more than one generation of Marathi kids had our one and only Fa Fe (as he is popularly known among the fans), who was match for all and then some.

No kidding guys, your favourite “Detectives” series is back, this time with a kid detective.

Faster Fene

Banesh Fene, born and brought up in Fursungi (a small village near Pune), was christened “Faster Fene”, when he (on his trusty bicycle) left behind a rich, spoiled kid while racing across the length and breadth of Pune to gain the last seat in a prestigious school. This nickname was later proven worthy many times over when he bested criminals, spies, ghosts and much more, in terms of speed and brains.

Apart from Tintin, this kid must be the most travelled of them all. He has travelled to almost all corners of India, solving mysteries and defeating criminals, while still in school. Gifted with intelligence, quick wit and bravery, he has an uncanny knack of attracting trouble. So, when visiting Mumbai, he gets attached to a runaway blimp and lands in the midst of smuggled goods. When visiting Kashmir, his visit turns up more terrorists than tourist spots, and when the India-China war is on, running off to fight on the front, he manages to be caught by enemy and escapes with their plans.

So why did I include this adventurer as a detective? Because in his illustrious career, he has caught a Chinese spy in Pune (Pune was and continues to remain one of the most important military stations in India), uncovered the mystery of a ghost in an oil-well in Gujrat, helped authorities to track and catch many criminals and smugglers and tracked a treasure or two, while he was still in school. He was aided by his cousin and a lot of school-mates (with whom he became pretty famous after his “entry” in school).

Written by Bha. Ra. Bhagwat (a Marathi author, famous for his adventure novels for kids), the stories have their fair share of adventure, mystery, improbable escapes at the last moment, scary and/or bumbling villains... in short, all the ingredients that make a nice adventure series (though the action might get repetitive at times, this being a series of novels). Written for kids, the stories have their fair share of wit and humour to occupy even the adults. The series was originally written in 60's, with India-China war providing the backdrop for more than one novel. It was later converted into a TV series in 80's.

With his intelligence, bravery and wit, Fa Fe has enthralled more than a generation of Marathi kids. In fact, I think I can safely say that almost every kid I knew in school had dreams of being this lanky kid (with bones protruding out of his skinny legs and hands) with his chequered-shirt and half-pant (a dress he was rarely seen without, even when he dropped on the border with a parachute), flying on his bicycle, outwitting his (and of course, country's) foes.

Coming up: Detectives in Indian Comics (Well, crime-fighters if you want)

Quote of The Day:

The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Status Update

For all those people who are wondering where I have been disappearing to for last few days, here's the answer... (And for all those who didn't, shame on you)

In keeping with my status as a Master, a few observations are due here:

  • Commencement ceremonies are great. Every person should attend at least one in his life, if only to soak in the general air of celebration. (And oh yes, the atmosphere, slightly cloudy and not at all boiling like last few days, was ideal for a nice ceremony on the ground)

  • Contrary to my belief, Graduation gowns are very comfortable and easy to wear. Of course, you would look foolish trying to "use" the hood.

  • Tassels are a pain. A small gust of wind, and you have to search where the tassels have gone flying. Keeping an eye on a small child is easier, believe me. (At least, my niece is better behaved than the tassels I have on my cap.)

  • The caps have one of the most non-aerodynamic shapes, which makes the wearer very weary of them flying off at the smallest breath of air. Which brings me to my next point...

  • The only use of the tassels I could come up with (apart from denoting the level and field of study) is to get hold of, in order to prevent your cap from flying off.

Regular programming commences soon...

Quote of The Day: