Thursday, July 21, 2005

Growing up with a Bong Superhero

These rainy days make me quite nostalgic. Days like these brings back memories from the summer vacation, Maggi, Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot and comics. Comics was the main source of our hero worshipping (what else do a Bong kid can do on summer holidays with only DoorDarshan available!). To a whole generation of us Bong kids growing up Batul was our definition of the ultimate Bong superhero (though the grownups always talked about the Marxist superheroes but we somehow foresaw the future and knew Jyoti Basu was a dud!!). Every Bong house has atleast a copy of Batul or Handa-Bhonda or Nonte-Fonte present. I remember visiting my Mashimoni's place and spending whole day going through my cousin's collection of Suktara(he had an enormous collection; some date back even before my birth).

Batul is supposed to be the strongest man on earth - he can lift whole ship with a single hand, can blow the roofs of whole town by blowing his breath and can lift the prison building with one hand to catch the crooks escaping. The only similarity with Batul I found later was with Desperate Dan.

I've always wanted from then on to know more about Narayan Debnath, the man behind those hugely popular (they still are!!!) comics series like Batul, Handa-Bhonda and Nonte-Fonte. Atlast found an interview of him thanks to Parabaas.

Here's some vital-info on Batul:

Real Name: Bantul

Identity/Class: Unknown

Occupation: Various odd jobs when money is short

Affiliations: 'Lambakarna'. (a small boy, who has a special power of hearing from a great distance.); an ostrich (by manipulating his wings Bantul flies)

Enemies: Terrorists, outlaws, smugglers in general.
Bachchu, Bichchu - two small boys who are criminally-minded; Bantul always try to prevent them from doing mischief, so they try to harm Bantul.

Known Relatives: One very old aunt. Bantul is brought up by her, and he still stays in her house, looking after her.

Aliases: Bantul the Great

Base of Operations: A small township at a remote corner of eastern India, sometimes other parts of India also.

First Appearance: 'Bantul The Great' Comic Strip in Magazine Shuktara, started 40 years ago.

Powers/Abilities: He has physical power beyond imagination. He can move big things by blowing air from his mouth; his body is so tough that bombs, bullets or knives cannot penetrate. In a few instances terrorists fired missiles at him, and he used them as football. Even his tiny hairs (he usually has a shaven head) are so tough that they act like thorns or nails, so if he touches a ball with his head, the ball bursts. He can fly by manipulating the wings of his favorite ostrich.

History: Bantul is a superhuman who tries to enjoy a leisurely life in a remote corner of eastern India, who comes to the rescue of good people and to enforce the law and punish criminals. He helped Indian Military and Police a few times to catch terrorists and smugglers. The rest of the time he spends reading books, cooking, fishing, roaming in jungles and mountains, or try to earn some money when he runs short of it. Most of the times he land up in a mess when trying to earn money, as he is never conscious of his great powers, so he does normal things abnormally and destroy everything! (For example, if he takes a job of lawn mowing, he will definitely break the lawn mower!). Despite all his abilities, he's by heart a small boy, and most of the time he forgets his powers and try to act like a normal man. This way he brings miseries to his friends also.

Thank you Narayan babu for giving us the lovely childhood.

Here's a place we can read his masterpieces online.


At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for that coloured feature of our ever loved "parar dada" bantul the great. nonte fonte ...bahadur beral...the fast depleting legacy of bengali comic "taroka"s. one can just sit and watch the ebullient bevy of the bong comic band being replaced by the more tech savy ,laser armed, gizmo headed super heroes demolishing the indisposable virus "bit-by bit" over the internet or the pocket cell-'telephone'...its outside sealdah station last june , on my way to catch the Rajdhani express ,that an old hawker sitting in his books stall of "sananda"s and "manorama"s shot me back ten years ...a time when i used to gorge on shuktala that brought me inexplicable thrill of how keltuda was outwitted by nonte-fonte...and how bantulda over turned the steam roller. and i bought it from this book keeper, whose face i dont remember , but will always be in my mind as my "tambourine man"...a coloured edition of nonte-fonte.

- A.D.


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