Pran Kumar Sharma, or Pran, creator of the iconic cartoon character, Chacha Chaudhury, breathed his last on Wednesday at the age of 76, leaving an unmatched legacy and a void in the cartooning landscape that comic aficionados believe would be hard to fill.
Pran succumbed to cancer at a hospital in Gurgaon.
Born in Kasur, near Lahore in undivided India in 1938, Pran trained at Mumbai’s Sir JJ School of Arts and obtained a four-year fine arts degree, apart from a Masters in political science.
Pran began his career in 1960 as a cartoonist for a Delhi-based newspaper, Milap, with the 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 rest of his life.
In his career spanning five decades, Pran employed a simple style of art and sense of humour to create a body of unforgettable characters. Most people recall with nostalgia their growing 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.
Chacha Chaudhary’s immortal punchline, dimaag computer se bhi tez chalta hai (brain works faster than a computer), continues to be recalled by the character’s fans.
Under the leading comics banner, Pran published over 500 titles and 25,000 comic features in 10 languages, including English, Hindi and Bengali.
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 the 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, Pran was a globe trotter. He “travelled widely including to America, England, France, Germany, Australia, Spain, China and South Korea. He delivered speeches to 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.”