ComiCon India once rewarded me with a parcel of a new graphic novel after I won a Facebook comment contest organized on their page.
The question was: Who according to you is the greatest comic book character in India?
My answer? Chacha Chaudhary.
That’s right! No one comes even close. Let me take you back to the 60’s. A comic book company called “Indrajaal Comics” was dominating the Indian comic industry and was providing weekly dosage of the heroic antics of over the top God like characters to its readers. Superheroes like Mandrake, Flash Gordon and The Phantom were selling like hot cakes. These flimsy pamphlets chronicling the exploits of these foreign costumed vigilantes were in huge demand at that time.
Enter Pran Kumar Sharma.
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Cartoonist Pran, Creator of Chacha Chaudhary, died 5 August 2014
This cartoonist, who was born in a small town called Kasur (a part of Pakistan now), penned down a character one fine day in the early 60’s and the rest is history. The industry, which until now, had witnessed heroes with magical powers and superhuman strengths, saw the birth of Chacha Chaudhary.
And it completely changed the perception of a superhero in the fans’ minds. Chacha was a frail old everyday joe, lived in Delhi with his wife Bini, his pet dog named Rocket, and his colleague from jupiter, Sabu, the finest specimen of human strength. Along with his bhimsaini latth (a wooden stick), Chacha boasted a brain that ran faster than a computer! This was a never before seen concept in the comic industry snd Chacha helped break the stereotype glued to superheroes since Superman was conceived. He could do the things normal people couldn’t do, just because his brain was sharp and helped him survive no matter the no. of odds stacked against him.
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Raghubir Yadav as Chacha Chaudhary in TV Serial.
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Chacha Chaudhary taught us that even an average everyday person can be a superhero if he has the will, determination, a good heart and a sharp brain to top it off! I read “Chacha Chaudhary aur Pop Show” way back in 1998 and thus a life long fan was born at that moment! Chacha was perhaps the only Indian comic book character to reach the mainstream audience and no other Indian comic character has even come close.
Characters will come and go, the Indian comic industry will continue to thrive, but nothing will top the cultural impact that Chacha Chaudhary had on the Indian readers as well as fans in foreign countries.
Dedicated to Mr. Pran Kumar sharma, who passed away in August 2014. Your contributions to Indian comics would remain unparalleled till the end of time.