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ACK Alive: Space for all things creative

Rana Daggubati at the launch of Amar Chitra Katha learning centre

Rana Daggubati at the launch of Amar Chitra Katha learning centre   | Photo Credit: G Ramakrishna

Amar Chitra Katha sets up its first creative learning centre in Hyderabad, bolstered by the support from actor Rana Daggubati

Hyderabad is now home to India’s first Amar Chitra Katha learning centre – ACK Alive. Spread across 10,000sqft adjacent to Ramanaidu Studios, Jubilee Hills, it’s come up in the space that originally housed a visual effects studio founded by Rana Daggubati a few years before he turned an actor.

A collaborative effort between Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), Rana Daggubati and Kishore Biyani of Future Group, this space aims to teach the 64 art forms to children and adults who want to re-discover their creative side.

The spacious set-up comes alive with walls in vibrant sunshine hues and decked up with posters of the earliest ACK comics and characters from Tinkle. “The visual effects studio that once existed here was an adult, corporate space. We turned it around to a space that would welcome children and make them want to spend time here,” Rana tells us.

Creative corners

Art director Bhupesh who’s worked with film productions and the creative team of ACK got together and roped in several artists, including Hyderabad-based art therapist Saher Ali to adorn the learning centre with statuettes, murals, paintings, a feedback tree and a darzi corner to display products created by participants. “It felt like we were sculpting the entire space, designing each wall and seeing each corner come alive with many artefacts. You can’t register everything here in one visit; each time you step in you will notice something new,” says Bhupesh.

The timeline
  • Amar Chitra Katha was founded in 1967 and its first comic was Krishna, in 1970.
  • Vasavadataa, in 1972, was ACK’s first Indian classic literature title.
  • The first Tinkle comic was published in 1980.
  • ACK published its set of Mahabharata comics in 1985.

The rooms are creatively named too. At Chitralekha, learn folk arts from rural artisans who’ve honed the skills over generations. Anant Pai room is where you do a theatre workshop or stage a play; the Shantala art room is for the older audience to learn painting; at the Amrapali studio learn Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Bollywood dance and even acrobatic yoga! The music room is called Tansen and under the Parijata tree, learn pottery and woodwork. There’s also a mini library. If you’re in a group, gather at a storytelling corner and allow your imagination to soar.

Vidisha Bagree, director, Amar Chitra Katha

Vidisha Bagree, director, Amar Chitra Katha   | Photo Credit: G Ramakrishna

The idea of ACK Alive stemmed around seven months ago, says Vidisha Bagree, director, ACK. Rana who was in touch with the Biyanis for an ad project was keen on starting the learning centre in Hyderabad. Rana explains, “Real estate is easier here and our studio is nearby to help. To me, this felt the right thing to do. Learning has become so boxed. I wanted a place where you can learn, create and tutor at the same time. We have to nurture art and being in the film community, I felt the need to do it. It’s our attempt to nurture a creative community.”

Art, a way of life

Rana looks at ACK Alive as a creative knowledge hub for all age groups. “There’s enough room here to learn an art form and become a professional. It’s not time pass. Art makes young people look at the world differently. Art is a way of my life and it’s a great way to be,” Rana adds.

In the last few days, select guests have been invited to experience the space and give their feedback. Regular sessions are now on for a range of courses.

Inside ACK Alive

Inside ACK Alive   | Photo Credit: G Ramakrishna

Anuraag Agarwal, CEO of ACK is keen to open more such learning centres across India. The team worked closely with Avanti Schools Trust to design a curriculum that will befit India. He says, “My five-year-old daughter is more aware of Peppa Pig than some of our Indian stories. It’s not her fault. We need to present our stories in a fun manner in digital platforms as well.” Reading comics is a starting point. A learning centre, he feels, can whet the appetite of children to dive deeper into stories and art forms.

Anuraag states that finding teachers for different arts is a challenge. Vidisha points out that on the ACK Alive website, each programme comes with a tutor profile and students can rate and review teachers.

Anuraag Agarwal, CEO, Amar Chitra Katha

Anuraag Agarwal, CEO, Amar Chitra Katha   | Photo Credit: G Ramakrishna

Having re-visited Tinkle comics of the 80s from his personal collection recently, Rana tells us, “These books were filled with simple, small stories that were entertaining and taught us values. Our land is full of such stories. The West showcases its culture of a few hundreds of years so well; we have thousands of years of culture and need to be doing a lot more.” For the actor, a venture like ACK Alive may not immediately seem to be in the realm of movies. But, as Rana sums up, “Cinema is the keeper of all arts. In that sense, this venture is very much related to what I do in cinema.”

(Look up for the courses offered)

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Printable version | Jul 3, 2020 11:52:16 PM |

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