Since 1980, the comic magazine Tinkle has won the hearts of thousands of Indians, ranging from children to adults from all pockets of the country, with its innocent anthology of pieces featuring comedy, general knowledge, mythology, stories, puzzles and quizzes. Distributed in three other Indian languages apart from English, Tinkle started off as a fortnightly issue that included tales about mythological and self-created characters, under the Rang Rekha feature started by Anant Pai. Traditionally created for 8-12 year olds, Tinkle has managed to enamour people all over the country with its light-hearted content and amusing characters, like Suppandi, Shikhari Shambhu and Tantri the Mantri, which can be enjoyed by the entire family. The early editions of this publication included content submitted only by the staffers, but eventually, Tinkle started asking for contributions from readers, and even added challenges to its issues to excite interest and build readership.
A HISTORY GUIDED BY INSPIRATION
Anant Pai had been working as an executive at the Times of India when he observed on a quiz show how participants were able to answer questions about Greek mythology but failed when they were asked about their own country, India, and there began his journey into the comic industry. In his pursuit to enlighten people about the rich historical heritage of India, Pai quit his job at the Times of India in 1967 and started his own book series, Amar Chitra Katha, which dealt with traditional folk tales, mythology and biographies. The venture was immensely successful, selling over 80 million copies in nearly 440 titles; the popularity of Amar Chitra Katha encouraged Pai to found a new feature called Rang Rekha in 1969, under which he launched the Tinkle comics in November 1980. The idea for the new comic had been pledged by Subba Rao, the then associate editor of the Amar Chitra Katha, and the idea had been eagerly approved by Anant Pai; while meeting to decide the name of the new endeavor, Rao had responded to a call by stating that he would tinkle (call back) the caller back, and that is how the comic came to be called ‘Tinkle’. The marketing team launched the campaign ‘Tinkle Tinkle Little Star’, styled on the popular nursery rhyme, to publicise the new comic among consumers. Anant Pai had written and edited most of the content for the initial editions, and his flair for storytelling soon won him the fond sobriquet of Uncle Pai. In 1989, Pai launched Chimpu comics that featured many of the Tinkle characters such as Ramu and Shamu, Kapish and Little Raji, but the venture was not successful, forcing the publication to be called back.
Tinkle forms an integral part of India’s rich legacy of comics, which includes publications like Chandamama, Indrajal comics, Chacha Chaudhary and Batul the Great. What renders Tinkle as distinct in this bright history is its ability to capture hearts with its enduring characters, who continue to ignite the imagination all Indians. Some of the iconic characters who have remained evergreen in people’s minds are Suppandi, Kalia the Crow, Shikhari Shambhu, Ramu and Shamu and Tantri the Mantri. Suppandi was introduced in January 1983, based on an idea by P. Varadarajan, and was created by the artist Ram Waeerkar, who continued drawing it till 2003, where after it was sketched by his daughter Archana Amberkar. Kalia made its first appearance in the December 1980 issue, based on an idea by Luis Frenandes and was created by Pradeep Sathe, and the duo then went on to idealise other characters like Doob Doob, Chamataka and Keechu-Meechu; quite interestingly, the illustration of the animals were kept as close as possible to the actual anatomy. Luis Fernandes was also behind the creation of the character Shikhari Shambhu, who was modeled on another character from the Target comics, and he was designed by the artist Vasant Halbe. Some of these classic characters have also been adapted into their own Tinkle series such as The Suppandi Series, Suppandi!Suppandi! and Shambhu and the Man Eater.