When I heard about the demise of famous cartoonist Pran this morning, the image of Chacha Choudhary came in front of my eyes – that characteristic moustache, red turban, black waistcoat, thin frame, walking stick, agility in his walk and talk. Somehow I always related Pran with his most famous character – Chacha Choudhary, for like Chacha, Pran too, as the grand old man of Indian Comic industry spread happiness along with the right messages for the younger generation through his comics.
Look back in your childhood and it is unlikely that you will remember loving any comic more than Chacha Choudhary, Pinki and Billu! In fact I still can’t recall any other Indian comic I would have read other than the ones dished out by Pran. My addiction for these comics knew no bounds and this often invited spanking from mom when she caught me reading comics hidden in textbooks, right before exams! Her usual statement was “If you have this addiction for your studies, the scene would be much better.” As soon as the exams would end, I would rush to my cousin’s place as he had a cardboard carton full of these comics and we would exchange the ones we had read!
While foreign comic characters too were a hit with us, Pran’s comics had a special place in our hearts since they came from our own heartland and were characters from among us.
The wise old man of Indian comics, Chacha never failed to prove that his mind worked faster than computer. A sharp mind and a gentle heart, he was someone we adored, respected and looked up to. He was the common man hero, who won with his mind and not violence. While Sabu was the volatile one of the duo, Chachaji would always use his presence of mind. Every time he would foil the plans of thugs, it would be in a way that would make us laugh and marvel at the wit and common sense of a common Indian man. While he was tough with thieves and goons, inside the house, he surrendered to the home minister, Chachi. Incidentally, Chacha Choudhary never locked his house when he went out and still managed to save his house from being burgled!
When the TV channels decided to convert Chacha Choudhary into a TV show, Raghubir Yadav was the apt choice for he so so much resembled the image of Chacha we all have in our minds.
If there has to be an epitome of our friendship with aliens, Sabu is the best example. The tall and well built Sabu from Jupiter complimented the lean and wise Chacha. Sabu symbolized the angry young man who preferred to break muscles than use his presence of mind. A favourite line in every comic used to be “When Sabu gets angry, a volcano erupts in Jupiter!”
Chacha’s large heart got him to adopt Rocket, a stray dog. The docile Raaket (the way they used to mention his name in the Hindi version) didn’t spare the thieves whenever they attempted foulplay. No premium pedigree, this very Indian feeble Rocket was India’s answer to Tintin’s canine companion.
Shrimatiji was the reason why my brother and I picked up women’s magazines, for usually the Shrimatiji strip found its place on the last page of women’s magazines mom used to read. Shrimatiji was the smart, progressive woman of the 80s who learnt the tricks of the changing times and always had the last laugh.
Billu and Pinki
Billu and Pinki were the gennext kids of the 80s who preferred to spend their time playing pranks and solving cases rather than glued upto facebook! Though I preferred reading comics where they both appeared along with Chacha Choudhary, it was fun to read about Pinki’s display of bravery and smartness along with her pet squirrel, Kut Kut.
With growing years, Nancy Drews, Hardy Boys and then Sidney Sheldon replaced my bookshelves but just like school friends have a special place in our heart, no matter how many friends we make in life, Pran’s comics are an indispensable part of my childhood.
A big salute to the Walt Disney of India. While I may have read the comics purely for fun back then, now, as I write myself, I understand the craft of this genius who gave us the heroes from amongst the common men and women. He was often quoted as saying “"If I could put a smile on the face of people, I would consider my life successful"
RIP Pran Sahab and thanks for giving us more than just smiles.