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 published in ”Narayan Debnath Comics Samagra”, published by Lalmati, 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.
In 1950 he was introduced to Dev 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. From 1950 to 1961 he illustrated a number of children’s books including adventure novels and Western classics in translation. His journey in Comics world started in 1962 with Handa-Bhonda in Suktara.
The suggestion to work in comics in Bengali came from the editors at Dev 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. Shiyal Pandit [শিয়াল পণ্ডিত], 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 grayscale.
Narayan 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 superpowers.
When the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, 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 Kishor 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 Roy. 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.
He is also a great illustrator & an expert in serious drawing too. His work for Tarzan stories, Bengali translation of foreign novels etc. are among his great works of illustration.
Collections of Debnath’s comics have been published serially in Shuktara and Kishor Bharati and irregularly in Kishore mon, Chotoder asor, Pokhkhiraj etc.. His comic books featuring Handa Bhonda, Batul the Great and Nonte Phonte have been published since the early 1980s. Since the late 1990s, the Nonte Phonte comics have been anthologized and published in softcover format. From 2003 onwards, the earlier comics have been re-inked and published in full-color, Recently, Debnath gave permission for animation film based on the characters from Batul, Handa Bhonda and Nonte Phonte, and these provide access to the original stories to a whole new generation of children.
Debnath’s style incorporating characters speaking in the typical language of Adda (quintessential Bengali gossip lasting hours) and hundreds of nonstandard yet most commonly used in daily life expletives like “Uls” (describing reaction to a delicious food) or Aoofs,Yiofs,arghhh(similar to ouch).
Subtle punning is also aplenty in his comics but the main source of comedy is Slapstick.
Though his comic characters have immense popularity, Narayan Debnath himself has rather lived reclusively, distancing himself from publicity and media.
Most of Narayan Debnath’s work has been adapted for Bengali television. Nonte Phonte and Bantul the Great are animated shows today, while a television series called Handa Bhonda was briefly on air.
Source : Wikipedia