By Sonya Rehman
While a handful of Pakistani animators, such as Mir Zafar Ali, Asim Fida Khan, and Wajid Raza, among others, stand as living, breathing Hollywood success stories, Pakistan’s animation industry remains in a fledgling stage.
While there are a number of notable Pakistani cartoonists such as Nigar Nazar, Pakistan’s first female cartoonist, and other prominent illustrators like Sabir Nazar who have contributed their works to leading Pakistani newspapers for years, the local comic scene targeted towards the Pakistani youth is still slowly, yet surely, in the making.
In 2011, Nofal Khan and Ramish Safa, two undergrad students in Karachi, Pakistan, launched Kachee Goliyan, a Facebook page featuring their very own, original comic strips. Kachee Goliyan’s fan-base soon shot through the roof.
Currently, the team is hard at work churning out a series of comic books based around the exciting adventures of a protagonist called Umru Ayar, a popular character from Alif Laila (aka The Arabian Nights). Umru Ayar, which is allegedly Pakistan’s first Urdu comic book (also available in English), sets the bar pretty high vis-à-vis its storylines and art-work: it’s beautifully put together; perhaps on par with a Marvel or DC comic book.
The Diplomat spoke with Nofal Khan about Umru Ayar, his company, and the way forward for Kachee Goliyan.
What sorts of comics did Kachee Goliyan initially publish for its audience?
Nofal Khan: Initially we started off on Facebook and never thought Kachee Goliyan was going to become so big. I remember calling up Ramish and telling him we’d be lucky if we got 300 followers on Facebook. But in the first week, we ended up getting 3000.
At first, when we started the comics we were quite lost regarding what sorts of characters to create but we ended up creating our own alter-egos. JC and Sufi, the two protagonists, are based on us.
We wanted to educate the Pakistani market about comics. We started off by spreading awareness about comics being a medium of expression rather than just being funny cartoons.
Our comics with Marvel/DC superheroes put into localized settings were the most popular at the start. Our audience loved us because we gave them a local flavor. JC and Sufi were always seen in desi settings tackling things that normal, average, desi people do and experience in their daily lives.
We started the company with a mere capital of 150 rupees. Today, we have eight employees and are doing pretty well as Pakistan’s first, official comics company.
What about Umru Ayar, Pakistan’s first Urdu comic book? What has that process been like so far?
Nofal Khan: We always wanted to give Pakistan a superhero, and while we were at it, we also wanted to revive our age old characters. Umru Ayar has always been our favorite character from our childhood and it was one hero that we thought would be the most interesting to bring back to life in a visual form.
Apart from all that, it pains us to see our language, Urdu, dying such a brutal death. It’s our responsibility to try to bring it back and that’s precisely what our aim is. We want to hook kids on reading and enjoying Urdu again.
What’s Kachee Goliyan‘s work process like? How does one issue of Umru Ayar come into being, from start to finish?
Nofal Khan: First, the story is conceptualized. Then the storyboarding is done, followed by pencils, inking and editing, and then off goes the copy into print. That’s a very literal process, but in all that, Kachee Goliyan works as a team and all of us bring our heads together to bring about the finished product.
I’m aware of the fact that Kachee Goliyan strives to be a socially conscious company. Is it true that with every sale of an Umru Ayar comic, an underprivileged child receives a free copy?
Nofal Khan: Yes. We think it’s the best way to get them to read and this is the only way we can help broaden their imagination and cognition capacity. In this way, underprivileged children can develop themselves and become assets to society rather than liabilities.
What has the response been like so far and where do you hope to see Kachee Goliyan a few years down the road?
Nofal Khan: To put it mildly, the response yet has been generous. We have been well received and the reviews we get are pretty positive too. We hope to see Kachee Goliyan as Pakistan’s answer to Marvel and DC.
How does Kachee Goliyan cover its costs? Do you guys have a sponsor or sponsorships?
Nofal Khan: We sell the comics and for the other Kachee Goliyan comics (which are free of cost all over Pakistan), we cover costs through advertisements. On the other hand, we do content generation for the corporate sector too.
What does Kachee Goliyan currently have up its sleeve?
Nofal Khan: We were invited to two Comic-Cons (international comic conventions) – one in Dubai and the other in India. Unfortunately we couldn’t go to either because of some complications. However, we’d like our readers to wait and watch – we have some surprises up our sleeves.
The Diplomat Magazine