Thursday, October 25, 2007

Childhood, Adolescence, Youth...my love affair with Comics

The inspiration for writing this piece came from the introduction (in Wikipedia) of various comic book characters that I used to be a fan of during my adventures as a little kid in Lucknow. I remember very well, the times when these comic books were the sole means of 'timepass' (I know the purists will cringe at my use of non existent English words but let them!) of a single kid in the long and hot summer vacations when you weren't allowed to go out of the house because of the raging 'loo' (double entendre intended).

Let's see what these descriptions are like:



Note on Image uploaded: I used to read comics in Hindi. So I wanted this image to be a representative of the comics I used to read. But the website of the cartoonist Pran has English translations only.

Chacha Chaudhary: "...Chacha is seen in waistcoat which has a double inside pocket. He has a 'gandhi watch' to see time and enjoys eating watermelon with relish. Whenever Chachi nags him he takes off for a walk with Sabu and Rocket...

"Chacha Chaudhary not only fights them off and help the common man but also teach them moral lessons and good behavior. Most of the events end up with goons embarrassed of their deeds. You can see middle class dealing with everyday's problems. In a way Pran takes a whip at those problems still maintaining a happy go lucky feel with twinkling eyes and smiling faces."

I have a feeling that the guy who wrote this up was in the pay of Diamond Comics.

Sabu: "Sabu is an alien from the planet Jupiter, always faithful to Chachaji and provides the physical strength in time of need. He is huge and strong, about 20 feet tall. In some comics he is able to increase his size. He wears only a wrestler's kachha (briefs), a pair of ear-rings and a pair of gum-boots. Sabu decided to stay at Earth with Chacha Chaudhary when he tasted delicious paratha and halwa made by Chachi during his visit to earth. Sabu has a twin brother called Dabu and the giant earrings that Sabu wears had been gifted to him by his mother when he left Jupiter. It is said that whenever Sabu gets angry, some where a volcano erupts. (It is generally depicted in a small bracket in a corner). Whenever he performs an act of great strength, he utters the cry, "Hu-Huba!" Sabu eats 108 chapatis at one time,12 kilos of halwa and about 20 litres of lassi in one meal.

This is a perfect example of Wikipedia being as accurate as Encyclopaedia Britannica. No comic book expert could have got those figures right unless he was a totally wasted, wretched and jobless kid in a small town in India. I personally vouch for the accuracy of the above cited figure of 108 chapatis, 12 kilo halwa etc. I have read that issue in which Chachi gets fed up and cites this figure to sober up Sabu and shake him from his jobless existence. The ruse is effective and Sabu promptly scoots off to fetch sabji for Chachi from the bazaar. Ditto for the 'Hu Huba'.

Chachi:"...In one comic she is shown with stirring a giant pot with a ladle for Sabu and serving him more affectionately than Chachaji."

When you're a kid, somehow you don't get subtle undertones of marital infidelity/extra marital affairs in Chacha Chaudhary. I am sure that the little Harry Potter fans wouldn't have guessed that Dumbledore is gay from the nuanced writings of JK Rowling either.

"Chacha's comic with 'Raaka ki waapsi',' is one of the best selling comics of Diamond Comics. Apparently Raka was put to sleep by some potion given by a saint from Himalayas and buried in the ocean in the first time. On his return by another potion he was reduced to a small size, closed in a bottle and buried in a grave."

This is indeed true. For more dramatic consequences of this read a previous post Boy Meets Girl whose hero Ghongha Basant claims that it is his favourite comic book of all time.

Another comic book that took my world by storm was the "Fighter Toads" series. It was a cold hearted rip off from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series with the creators confident that Indian kids wouldn't know who the latter are. And they were goddamned right. We loved the Toads even though their comics were expensive.

Here's the Wikipedia entry:

"Fighter Toads are the four innocent but very brave toads. Fighter toads features in Raj comics. There names are Fighterr, Masterr, Cuterr and shooterr ("terr" is the sound that toads make in Hindi comics). These were created by "Dhananjaya", one of the friends of Super Commando Dhruva, another Raj comics character.

An inspiration from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, these characters became a superhit in their very first year. These comic books were of giant size but after some time raj comics reduced the size of these comic books to normal size.
"

Again, I vouch for the accuracy of all facts stated but for the "...innocent but very brave toads.." part.

As I re-read whatever I have written about the passion (by no means extinct) for comics that I have nursed for so long, I realise that one post cannot do justice to all those years spent in fervent hopes of getting one's hands on just one more comic book. So let me just finish off this part without concentrating on the other comic book characters that I was fond of. So although I focus on only the clownish acts of the Indian Comic book industry in this post, I will try to cover the other, more mature facets of the same in other parts of the series of posts that I plan to write in this area.

I end with a miscellany:

The following is the video that Raj Comics have released about Nagraj. It's funny to see the new emaciated version of Nagraj in the video as well as the Matrix ishtyle stuntmangiri that he indulges in. I don't know this Nagraj...my idea of him was the usual more macho superhero. Anyway...



The following, I remember well, was the first Nagraj comic book:



This is the first Super Commando Dhruv comics "Pratishodha ki Jwala" (I remember I asked this question in the India Quiz in Inci '07 of which I was the Quizmaster):



Read "Muft Dhruva ka ek Poster". I was a total sucker for such collectibles.

The following is Doga. The Dog-Raja (hence "Dog-A"??? I wonder...) who communicated with dogs. It was a pretty dark and very violent comic with multiple scenes of mutilation, bloody killings and gore all round. I remember we had named our PT teacher "Doga". The name was so popular that even he knew it and approved of it! I still remember the day when he was called to the dais in the morning assembly for some shit and the entire college was shouting out "Doga...doga...doga...". Boy...is this nostalgic! It was a cold winter morning in December (I think) with the dystopic fog that Lucknowites know so well covering us from head to foot.



Now we come to Bhokal. The fame of this character rested on his talwar (sword) and his popularity can be gauged from the fact that "Bhokali" meant brilliant/bond/chaapu etc before we had discovered the engineering lingo that forms the major chunk of our vocabulary now.



There is also Fauladi Singh-the android whom I believe was the first instance of Science Fiction used in Hindi comic book medium. I remember it being brilliant for its times. It was one of the reasons that I found Science interesting and it made me resolve that I would become a scientist when I grew up (in response to the overly cliched question that elders bug kids with "Beta bade hoke tum kya banoge?") (...That I changed my mind as soon as the World Cup '92 (Italy) aired on Doordarshan and promised to myself that I will become a footballer instead is a different question altogether).



And now, I turn my attention to my favourite comic book of all times: Bankelal. This was a real goofy character similar to Tantri the Mantri that you read in Tinkle. One of my earliest memories is reading the first comic book of this series (below) in my room with the sunlight from the windows falling slantingly on the book (a gift from my Uncle).




The End

TRIBUTE: The inspiration for this post is Vishal Patel. I dedicate this wretched little effort to him and his pioneering work on the comics of the '80s.

PS: This is the longest, biggest and baddest post I have written, ever! Took me close to four hours.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Shaktiman ka Suroor

Check out the awesome atavistic fire belching dragon turn into a funky dance machine.



Friday, October 19, 2007

Recent Audio Fixations

1) Peter Frampton (especially "Do you feel like we do?")
2) Jane's Addiction (recent discovery...topnotch!)
3) Smashing Pumpkins (yet again!)
4) Alice in Chains (can't seem to get enough of them)
5) Tori Amos (Gawd...does she kick ass!)
6) Arbit ShoutCast Ghazal Radio Station on Amaraok (the bloke isn't Jagjit Singh but Radio Ghazal stations aren't that many either)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Boy meets Girl

Scene: Bus stand. Only two people there. One boy-frail and short with an over-sized T shirt on his reed thin frame hanging like...well a loose T shirt on a reed thin plastic hanger. Let's, without any loss of generality assume that his name is “Ghongha Basant”.

The second person is a female. This time however, with a significant loss of generality, assume her name as "Madhuri Zinta". As the name suggests, she is extremely good looking, spunky, confident and considers all males to be no better than her pet dog. And yeah, I forgot to add, she is extremely well read and as all such intellectuals go, pretty lit.

The bus just isn't arriving. There is uncomfortable silence in the bus stop and this is oppressing our shy, gentle hero Ghongha who seems to melt away and wish the earth would swallow him up so that he will be excused from breaking the silence by saying “Hi” to the female. Finally, the girl kind of loses patience and asks this sensitive hero of ours,

Madhuri Zinta: “Hi, I am Madhuri. You're Ghongha right?”
Ghongha: (Shocked to the point of disbelief that a female, and that too a nice one, had addressed him) “Uhhh...yeah, Hi”.

Some casual pleasantries are exchanged and a couple of lines regarding the cold weather are put in politely. By the end of the three minute conversation, Ghongha is pretty much convinced that Ms Madhuri Zinta is madly in love with him. This gives him a lot of confidence and he becomes more at home talking to this insanely beautiful girl.

Madhuri catches Ghongha staring at her rear. But given that the female is lit, she obviously assumes that Ghongha is looking at the book that's jutting out of her bag.

Madhuri: “Have you read this book? 'My name is Red' by Orhan Pamuk. You know this guy won the Nobel this year in Literature.”
Ghongha
: “No I have not”.
Madhuri: (Slightly dismayed) “Oh. So what kind of books do you read?”
Ghongha: “Comic books basically”.
Madhuri: “Oh I love them too. I really think Alan Moore is one of the most brilliant writers of this genre. And Frank Miller too...the way he reinvented Batman in “The Dark Knight Returns” is simply superb”. She seemed to lapse into a thoughtful silence as she said this, as if suddenly realising the supreme truth of such a profound observation. Then she added after this afterthought, “Don't you think so?”
Ghongha: (Totally taken aback) “Well actually my favourite comic book was "Chacha Chaudhary aur Raka ki Wapasi” by the cartoonist Pran”. The boy had seen the girl pass into thoughtful meditation as she had pronounced her verdict. Being incredibly beautiful, this had suited her finely crafted features and had shifted her rear ever so slightly to the left. Needless to say, it was an extremely impressive stance. It was but natural that our hero Ghongha Basant would try to emulate that thoughtful lapse into silence. But suddenly he remembered vividly about the comic book “Chacha Chaudhary aur Raka ki Wapasi” which was not only the best comic book he had ever read, but also his first one. A blinding wave of sudden nostalgia swept him as he recalled in minute detail how he would hide this comic in between his “Joy of Science” textbook so that his father would not catch him reading comics. Something other-worldly, something ethereal gripped his self and he found himself speaking passionately about the world of Chacha Chaudhary.

Ghongha
: “You know, whenever Sabu had a fit of anger, somewhere, someplace, a volcano erupted. And Chacha Chaudhary was a super hero whose brain worked faster than a computer. And Chacha Chaudhary had a brother named Chchajjoo Chaudhary who once was mistaken for him and was taken to planet Tau Tau where he was given complicated equations to solve.....It was....it was....it was...brilliant!”

A gentle, quiet, dew drop like tear slipped from Ghongha's eyes. Madhuri looked at him with her jaws open. Silence reigned supreme in the bus stand again but the beautiful face of Ms Madhuri Zinta seemed blurred as tears quietly rolled by.

Quite noiselessly, the bus had rolled to a stop near the bus stand. Madhuri went in. As Ghongha was about to climb the steps, a lopsided smile ran across his face. He chuckled and said to himself “You smooooth bastard. She will be fantasizing about you tonight for sure.”

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mount (K)Ubuntu: Peak Amarok

Vista sucked so bad that I decided to include bombing Microsoft HQ as one of the things to do before I die. Hence I have decided to postpone my imminent suicide (sorry Subbu, you'll have to wait) to the time I can complete this mission.

Amarok has got to be the greatest audio player ever devised by any intelligent life in the Universe. Not only it kicks ass by playing every which format you can have, its streaming of the lyrics automatically for the songs playing, streaming Wikipedia information of the band in the adjoining window and countless other small but very, very handy operations have turned me into a diehard, loyal fan. And yet, this is hardly the end. The greatest asset is the free access to countless radio stations 24 hours a fucking day! I remember well that I had listened to more than 200 songs in a month on the Yahoo(!) LaunchCast radio (which although was brilliant) despite the incessant bombardment of bad advertisements (Lending Tree dot com, Nissan Live Player) to scar me for the remainder of my life. What do you think the result was? The bastards refused to play any more songs unless I coughed up 3 fucking dollars! Kalyug...ghor fucking Kalyug I tell you!

But as Gita would tell us, partitran_aya sadhunaam vinashaay cha dush_kritaam Amarok came to the rescue. Not only does it not have those stupid commercials, not only is it free, but the number of embedded radio stations in Amarok is about the number of Launch Cast radio station raised to the one thousandth power! And here comes the best part. It has Bhojpuri radio stations too! Not all of you know that my mother tongue is not Hindi but Bhojpuri. So my jaw literally dropped when I came across this radio station. Dude, this has got to be the most awesome, most flabbergasting, most intesely surprising thing I have encountered...ever.

I listened to the station for some one hour or so. Yeah, it was pretty authentic...but it didn't showcase any stars like Manoj Tiwari "Mridul" for which I felt kind of bad, because you expect to hear Led Zep when you tune in to a rock station.

Other mentionable radio station that one usually doesn't encounter elsewhere (excluding an amazingly wide variety of Rock, Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Metal, Hindi Film, New Hindi chart-toppers etc) include Ghazals, Old Hindi Filmy and many more...

Feisty Fawn (Ubuntu 7.04) is the most awesome OS ever. Better than the Fedora Panini that I used in S'kal. And yes I won't mention Windows at all...the developers of Vista should as well jump in the sea.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Friday, October 05, 2007

Dharma, Artha, Kama...? Nah....just Moksha!



Edition Dated: October 5th 2007.

Explanatory (???) Link:

The Whores of Mensa-a short story by Woody Allen.