• Raghav Ruia

The Walt Disney of India

Anant Pai, the late story teller is the writer and founder of the 'Amar Chitra Katha', the historical tales that taught several generations of Indians the country's history and mythology. His comical description of Indian history appealed to all ages, making history fun and reading an amazing pass time for children. He began this journey in 1967, up until 2007 because the publishing company that owned the series sold it to two entrepreneurs, but Pai stayed the Chief Storyteller. Mr Pai is our #1UNSUNGHERO and we're honoured to bring his inspirational story to you.

After the production of "Ananthram", the first 'katha', Pai began to approach schools and retailers to sell his product. However, he received an unsatisfactory market response. Schools found the comics facetious and retailers didn't sell the product as no reputable brand backed the series.

Facing all these odds Pai continued to write comics with a hope that one day his work will be published and sold.

After a while, Pai and his wife - Mrs. Lalita Pai - persuaded a school in Delhi to conduct an experiment in which a certain set of history students got the comics to study from and another set of students got traditional textbooks to study from. Once the students had studied, a test was given to both sets of students and the results showed that students who studied using comic books had fared much better than the ones that used traditional textbooks. This was the first breakthrough of the 'Amar Chitra Katha' and the first time people realised the importance of this comic series.

Mr Pai was an incredibly passionate man. As a student, he studied chemical engineering but soon he discovered his passion in literature and history. Mr. Pai had a monotonous schedule during which, he'd wake up at 3:30am everyday and work on his stories after having his regular cup of 'masala chai'.

Mr Pai (center) surrounded by his favourite humans educating them in the best way possible.

In an interview with the New York Times, Pai said "Unless you have continuity with the past, you can’t easily be adjusted with the present,” inspiring hundreds of people to read about the ethnicity and diversity of our multicultural India. He also said “The acquaintance with the past is a must. You may not agree with it. You can disagree with it, but be aware of it.” supporting the idea that education and knowledge is a must, one can have their opinion on subject matter but being aware of it is a great asset. Pai's inspiration to begin this series was the lack of knowledge about India that he saw surprisingly in educated children. He identified the rise of western modernisation in India at a very early stage and used his passion, not only to educate but also to entertain.

Currently, the 'Amar Chitra Katha' is sold in 20+ languages all over India and is the undisputed leader in the market for children's books. Pai's small passionate dream led him to create an empire to serve society for generations. It is plausible, that there can even be a day when the history of Donald Trump and Narendra Modi be published as a 'Katha' later on in the future and our grandchildren read about them as historical figures that brought change all because of Mr Pai's legendary idea.

Committed to combining learning and entertainment, Pai started a children's magazine, Tinkle, in 1980. Tinkle also contained comic strips but unlike the 'Katha' series that showcased real life characters or famous folk tales, the characters in the Tinkle comics were Pai's creations, such as Shikari Shambu, a cowardly hunter who never managed to catch any animals. I remember being a child and reading Tinkle laughing at Shikari Shambhu, till date every time I step into a flight or train I buy one copy of Tinkle and enjoy every moment of mine reading it. Pai thought futuristic and used the past as a tool to educate the future India.

Tinkle also carried quizzes, non-fiction articles on history, science and geography, and a column in which children were invited to ask "Uncle Pai" questions. The name stuck, and after that, he was Uncle Pai, the man who knew everything. It was a role that delighted Pai, who was childless.

Mr Pai is the Walt Disney of India, providing this culturally diverse nation with fictitious and non-fictitious characters that didn't just tell stories or history, they entertained. Walt Disney is an icon of entertainment in the world but comparatively, our late Mr Pai is hidden like a needle in a haystack. Not to take away from the great work of Walt Disney, Anant Pai is an icon of literature and entertainment in our nation and hence I make this attempt to bring light to his story. He passed away at the age of 81 due to a heart attack although, still continues to educate and entertain people through his series. He left a legacy behind and six days before he died, Pai was honoured with the lifetime achievement award at India's first comic convention.

His connection to Walt Disney is very transparent, just like Mr Disney said "Laughter is timeless. Imagination has no age. And dreams are forever", Pai's everlasting dream of educating and entertaining children stays on in the form of his legacy even now. His company is now becoming more modern and launched their first app "The ACK comics app". Mr Pai wasn't a talker he was a doer and this was proved by his perseverance through his hard times in the industry. He was a modest simple man who never let fame get to his head and remained kind, humble and focused throughout his life.

Our first Hero, Uncle Pai - an Icon for entertainment, a legendary simplistic man who educated billions through his aspiration to spread knowledge.


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