New Delhi: Perhaps no cartoon character in the country holds greater endurance than an avuncular short- statures man sporting a thick bristling moustache and a blazing red turban.
Chacha Chaudhury, the neighbourhood genius who rapidly became a household name endeared himself to both children and grown ups alike, giving a homegrown comic character to Indians who uptill then had to make do with reproductions of foreign titles like ‘Phantom’ and ‘Superman’.
Creator of the iconic character, Pran Kumar Sharma, popularly known as Pran, breathed his last at the age of 75 leaving behind a unmatched legacy and a void in the cartooning landscape that comic aficionados believe will be hard to fill. He succumbed to cancer at a hospital in Gurgaon.
Born in Kasur, near Lahore in undivided Inida in 1938, Pran began his career in 1960 as a cartoonist for the Delhi-based newspaper ‘Milap’ with comic strip ‘Daabu’. In 1969, Pran sketched Chacha Chaudhary for the Hindi magazine ‘Lotpot’, which made him famous.
Pran was approached by Gulshan Rai of Diamond Comics in 1981 and thus began an association that continued for the next 35 years.
Most people recall with nostalgia their growing up years reading the exploits of Chacha and his inseparable companion Sabu who is from Jupiter, the villainous Raka, the stout Chachi, the mischievous Billoo and playful Pinki, Raman and Shrimatiji among other memorable characters.
In his career spanning over five decades, Pran employed a simple style of art and sense of humour to create a body of unforgettable characters.
Under the leading comics banner, Pran published over 500 titles and more than 25000 comic features in 10 languages including English, Hindi and Bengali.
According to the Indian Institute of Cartoonists, Pran had trained at Mumbai’s Sir J J School of Arts and obtained a four-year fine arts degree apart from a Masters in Political Science.
His cartooning career began with freelancing for the Hindi magazine ‘Lotpot’ with the adventurous Motu and Patlu, a desi version of Laurel and Hardy.
He went on to create teenage boy Daabu and Professor Adhikari but achieved immortality with Chacha Chaudhary whose punchline “dimaag computer se bhi tez chalta hai” (brain works faster than a computer) continues to be recalled by the character’s fans.
Numerous awards were conferred on Pran including a mention in the Limca Book of Records in 1995 as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award 2001 from Indian Institute of Cartoonists.
The World Encyclopedia of Comics describes him as the “Walt Disney of India” and the Chacha Chaudhary strip is featured at the US-based International Museum of Cartoon Art.
Several of Pran’s works were turned into cartoon films with an adaptation in 2009 which starred Raghvir Yadav as Chacha Chowdhury.
According to chachachaudhary.com, the man was a globe trotter as he “travelled widely over the globe including countries like America, England, France, Germany, Australia, Spain, China, South Korea etc. He delivered speeches to the gatherings of cartoonists on the subject wherever he went.”
On his website the cartoonist is quoted as saying, “If I could put a smile on the face of people, I would consider my life successful.”