Suppandi, Shambhu Shikari, Kalia the Crow and Tantri the Mantri are some unforgettable characters that are etched in the minds of children and even adults who grew up reading Amar Chitra Katha’s iconic Tinkle Digest. Among Tinkle’s many fans is former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. This month, the Tinkle Digest churned out its 250th edition.
Though Tinkle comics were first launched by the late Anant Pai, better known as “Uncle Pai”, in 1980, the first Tinkle Digest came out in 1992. Last month, Tinkle magazine too touched another milestone by bringing out its 600th issue.
Tinkle’s print properties include the comics, the digest and the Tinkle magazine which together have a monthly circulation of about 225,000 and which is growing at about 30 per cent annually. While online downloads of comic strips are already available, Tinkle plans to introduce phone apps soon.
The secret of Tinkle lies in the art of storytelling, says Neel Debdutt Paul, editor of Tinkle Digest. “The characters have a great connect with our readers and the idea is to make learning more fun.” At 29, Akansha Suri still swears by Tinkle and says that it opened many gateways of learning for her. “It’s a great way to learn about our country through the well-told folk tales.” Suri and the other Tinkle legionnaires are grateful to their “Uncle Pai” who started the Amar Chitra Katha story books and Tinkle. “Suppandi is a simpleton who makes us laugh with his antics; the Anu Club teaches you so much about science in the most interesting manner. And then there’s Shambhu Shikari,” says 12-year-old Kanav Chopra, a student of a school in Gurgaon. Shambhu Shikari, with his trademark hunter hat pulled over his eyes, is one of most lovable flagship character of Tinkle magazine.
Born over three decades ago, Tinkle has “evolved with our readers,” says Paul, both in terms of storytelling and characters.
Young artists and illustrators have come on board and they have given the digest a new look, while retaining its old charm. A new look has been given to Kalia the Crow and Anu Club in the 250th Tinkle Digest. New characters and sections such as Butterfingers, a clumsy but lovable kid, and Seadiaries, an underwater educative feature, have been introduced. The 250th digest also carries the first ever published stories of Suppandi, Kalia the Crow and Anu Club.
Last year Amar Chitra Katha, the parent company for Tinkle, sold a majority stake to Future Group. But that hasn’t affected its character. Paul believes that “the magazine will keep morphing into fresher avatars every month by pushing the envelope as far as art and storytelling are concerned.”
A child, says Paul, should have maximum fun during the valuable time he spends reading Tinkle. So, regular feedback is sought from the readers and changes are made accordingly. In the forthcoming issues characters like Mongol the Barbarians and Hoku from Polynesia would be introduced.
“The idea will always remain the same: where learning meets fun,” says Paul. It has been a great run for the Digest and despite the advent of Playstations and Xboxes, a dedicated band of Tinkle readers would hopefully ensure that the legend of Suppandi and Shambhu Shikari lives on.