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Narayan Debnath ( )is the creator of popular Bengali comics including Batul The Great, Handa-Bhonda and Nonte-Phonte. Having contributed to the early development of Bangla comics and its growth in a career spanning more than fifty years, he is still read in West Bengalmarker, Indiamarker and Bangladeshmarker. Apart from comic books and strips, Narayan Debnath is also an artist who has illustrated several children's novels. As of September 2006, many of his comics are serialized in popular children’s magazines published from Kolkatamarker including Shuktara and Kishore Bharati

Early life

Narayan Debnath was born and spent most of his life living in Shibpur, Howrahmarker, Indiamarker. His family hailed from Bikrampur in what is now Bangladeshmarker but had migrated to Shibpur before his birth. In an interview with the Bangla magazine Parabaas, published online in 2001, Debnath confessed to being interested in the visual arts from a very early age. The family business was retailing gold and he had ample scope to design patterns for jewelry. Around the time of World War II, Debnath would study fine arts at the Indian Art College for five years. He did not continue to get his degree but instead discontinued in his final year. For the next few years he freelanced for advertising agencies creating movie slides and logos.

He was introduced to Deb Sahitya Kuthir, a major publishing house through a friend. People such as Pratul Chandra Banerjee, Shailo Chakraborty, Balaibandhu Roy, and Purnachandra Chakraborti were associated with the press at the time. Initially he illustrated a number of children’s books including adventure novels and Western classics in translation.

Introduction to comics

The suggestion to work in comics in Bengali came from the editors at Deb Sahitya Kutir. Also the name Handa-Bhonda was their suggestion. Debnath had been familiar with foreign made comics but comics in Bengali had, to his admission, yet to take off. Sheyal Pandit, a comic strip created by Pratulchandra Lahiri for the Jugantar newspaper was one of the earliest ones. Handa-Bhonda became an instant success and continues to be printed in Shuktara every month . Handa-Bhonda was initially penciled and inked by Debnath and had no colored frames. Later it would be printed in grayscale.

Narayan Debnath’s first comic characters in color were for the comic strip and book Batul The Great. By Debnath’s admission, he thought up the idea of the superhero while returning from College Street, Calcutta. The name came to him instantly and he thought up the figure of the protagonist rapidly. Initially, he did not know what he foresaw as a future for Batul and did not give him any superpowers.

Development of the genre

When the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, closely associated with the Bangladesh War of Liberation flared up, he was asked by the editors and publishers to add an aura of invincibility. Debnath was reluctant at first because he was worried about legal implications. On assurance, he made Batul a superhero able to take on tanks, airplanes, and missiles. Bullets began to bounce off of him as in the case of Superman. Batul is still drawn by Debnath for Shuktara.

Later, Debnath was approached by Kishore Bharati for a Durga Puja special issue. The noted writer Premendra Mitra was editor at the time. Later, when Dinesh Chandra Chatterjee became editor, Debnath was asked to convert to strip form a detective thriller that he was writing. This metamorphosed into Black Diamond Indrajit Ray. The first serial strip that Debnath began to create for the Kishore Bharati monthly issues was Potolchand The Magician, which ran for about three issues. It seemed as if Dinesh Chatterjee was looking for something along the lines of Handa-Bhonda. Although not in the same mould, Nonte Phonte was born deriving inspiration from Handa Bhonda. Quickly, it developed into a separate storyline and also became published in comic book form.

His other creations include detective Koushik Ray for the ‘’Shuktara’’ cover and ‘’Bahadur Beral’’ (The Daring Cat). Neither of these are regularly published.

Selected creations

Comic strip sketch of Nonte and Phonte
  • Handa Bhonda, also referred to as Hada Bhoda, Handa-Bhonda and Hada-Bhoda
  • Batul The Great, also referred to as Bantul The Great
  • Nonte Phonte, also spelled as Nonte Fonte, Nonte-Phonte, and Nonte-Fonte
  • Black Diamond Indrajit Ray
  • Potolchand The Magician
  • Koushik Ray
  • Bahadur Beral


Popularity

Collections of Debnath’s comics have been published serially in Shuktara and Kishore Bharati. His comic books featuring Handa Bhonda, Batul the Great and Nonte Phonte have been published since the early 80’s. Since the late 90’s, the Nonte Phonte comics have been anthologized and published in softcover format. From 2003 onwards, the earlier comics have been re-inked and published in full-color, Recently, Debnath gave permission for animation film based on the characters from Batul, Handa Bhonda and Nonte Phonte, and these provide access to the original stories to a whole new generation of children.

Though his comic characters have immense popularity, Narayan Debnath himself has rather lived reclusively, distancing himself from publicity and media.

References and notes

Online references are few and far between. As far as this editor is aware, although often mentioned in English language blogs and on discussion forums, there is a scarcity of primary literature on Narayan Debnath or his creations in English. The best references are in Bengali and are the following two works (both available online)

External links




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