Chitrakatha : A Love Letter to Indian Comic Books

We are all huge comic book fans at Filmistani, and have more than once put forward a case for films to be made on Indian comic books. And so it is our pleasure to present an interview with the creator of 'Chitrakatha', an upcoming documentary about Indian comic books featuring the legends who have enriched the lives of multiple generations -

Before reading further, and to know further about this project please go through this Rough-cut teaser of Chitrakatha

Q 1. What was the genesis of the idea of making 'Chitrakatha'?

Like every other comic book fan, I had nurtured a dream of making comics as a kid, I was fortunate enough to get into it when my comic strips started getting published in several magazines and later I got a chance to provide my services as an illustrator at Gotham Comics, Bangalore (now Bengaluru). That's where I was exposed to a wide array of international comics and it was a revelation to see comic book creators like Eisner, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Gaiman, Tezuka, Enki Bilal etc were enjoying a celebrityhood that their Indian Counterparts were still deprived of. It was really sad to see there was no authorized history of Indian Comic Books in place, except for a few names like cartoonist Pran & Uncle Pai Indian readers weren't aware of most of the creators who'd spent their lives churning out brilliant stories of our most favorite imaginary friends. I really wanted to meet them all and learn more about the behind the scene stories. In 2008 I took a sabbatical from my professional life and that's when I planned a Pan-India trip meeting all my childhood heroes and shoot their interviews and Chitrakatha was born.    

 Q 2. What was your approach towards filming it? How much have you had to travel for shooting?

When I started all I wanted to do was to get as many stories as possible from every creator I met. And soon I realized it was a mammoth task that I had started, though I was looking at it as a 3 months exercise, but after traveling all over India for almost 4 months I realized it was a far bigger challenge to tell this colorful story. I am still in the process of editing the 100 Hours plust footage that we shot during those four months. I am really thankful that this self funded project was supported by all our friends who readily helped us by offering food, shelter and transportation as and when needed.  

Alok, while shooting a 'Flashback Scene'

 Q 3. How hard or easy was it to get in touch with legends like Aabid Surti, Pran sahab, and Uncle Pai? How did they react to your idea?

Aabid Surti Sir

Thankfully I have known Aabid ji since I was a school boy, so reaching him wasn't that difficult, he has this positive aura all around him all the time, he is an encyclopedia of stories and the best historian of Indian publishing. Reaching Pran Sir was not that difficult, but he is so punctual about his time that when we finished our shoot with him (it went on for more than 6 hours, though we'd promised him we will be done in an hour's time), he joked - Aapne aaj poora din le liya itne time mein main teen chaar pages ki comic bana leta... though he had finished two pages while we interviewed him, we were in awe of his efficiency and punctuality. Uncle Pai was generous with us as well... One particular interview that I am lucky enough to shoot was of Late Govind Brahmania sir, who despite having a great fan following and numerous efforts of interviewing him was never ready to give an interview and even I and Saumin had to literally plead him for this interview, which he reluctantly said yes on one condition - "Aage koi bhi interview lene aayega to tumko tumhare interview ki CD bana ke usko deni padegi..." 

The Late Eminent Uncle Pai

I will always sulk to the thought of not being able to interview Late Pradeep Sathe ji, who had become a good friend of mine and had visited me in Pune and we'd met several times in Mumbai as well, but before I could interview him, he was no more. Another artist is reclusive Bharat Negi ji who enjoys a tremendous fan following in our today's legendary artists like Anupam Sinha, Sudhir Telang et al, we were able to meet him and he blessed us but refused to give an interview.

The Legend behind Chacha Chaudhary, Sabu and Raaket

Almost all the artists were kind of shocked to realize someone (I) can be crazy enough to remember all their work and travel all the way to their homes and shoot an interview without any concrete financial support. Besides, for many artists it was a revelation of sorts - that people still remember and love their work. (It was started before facebook made them meet their fans).

      One of the Gods of Indian Comics describing Another : Anupam Sinha Ji talking about Sukhwant Kalsi sir

Q 4. Making a film like 'Chitrakatha' would be a dream for many comic-book fans, who have been your chief collaborators in this project?

My Partners in Crime - Saumin Patel (Graphics), Neeshank Mathure & Yash (Cinematographers), Anirban (Music) - Kaarwaan abhi badhta jaa raha hai... Will be able to share a final list once the film is ready.

Alok and Saumin during the Shoot

 Q 5. What are your views on there being no good Superhero films made in India despite us having a rich Modern mythology replete with homegrown heroes, when movies like The Dark Knight or recently The Avengers do extremely well in theaters.

First of all Bollywood is still unaware of the fan following Indian Comic Book Superheroes enjoy. Secondly, a Superhero movie needs a lot of investment, one can make two Singh Is Kinngs and make big bucks rather than trying out one Nagraj movie and risking their money by stepping into a territory they themselves aren't aware of. Thankfully things are changing and soon we can see Movies based on Indian Comic Book heroes. 
Q 6. This is your space, please tell the readers of Filmistani what all they can expect from your film, here's to hoping it converts loads of New kids into fans of good old comic books.

Well, besides telling the story behind Indian Comic Books, we are trying to make our film entertaining even for the people who haven't read or enjoyed these stories earlier. While die-hard comic book fans would enjoy the stories behind their most fav. comic book characters, we are trying to lure new readers into this magical world of comic books. Fingers crossed.

Alok Sharma can be contacted through his FB page
He is very accessible and loves discussing comic books and films.


{ Nadaan Parinda } at: September 12, 2012 at 1:24 PM said...

When will this be telecasted and where?

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