Narayan Debnath was born and spent most of his
life living in Shibpur, Howrah, India. His family hailed from
Bikrampur in what is now Bangladesh
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
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 superpower.
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.