In Toon with the Times

Feluda is a martial arts expert,but blessed with a sharp analytical mind,he prefers to use his magajastra (brainpower) instead to solve tricky cases.

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza | Published:February 3, 2012 3:19 am

Indian literature and universal stories emerge as choicest contents with home-grown animation shows making their international foray

Feluda is a martial arts expert,but blessed with a sharp analytical mind,he prefers to use his magajastra (brainpower) instead to solve tricky cases. This super sleuth of Indian literature,created by Satyajit Ray,has enjoyed a huge fan-following since the ’60s. However,the young Bengali detective is set to acquire newer and young fans soon with his animated avatar.

Disney Network,which got the rights for Feluda Series in 2010,is preparing to launch the animated show,Feluda – The Series,this summer in Hindi,English,Tamil and Telugu. In this Indian production,the character will not only step out of his demographics,but also find himself in contemporary times.

The move,says Arnab Chaudhuri,Director,Content and Creative,Walt Disney Television International India,is an attempt to introduce these timeless Indian stories to the new generation. Hence,Feluda joins the growing list of animated shows set in India. The series is also among the handful that step away from the prevalent trend of using mythological characters.

Till date,Ramayana and Mahabharata have been the chief sources of content for Indian animation. Lord Ganesha,Lord Krishna and Hanuman have made for the most popular characters. Bheem as Chhota Bheem is currently finding favour on POGO.

Nina Elavia Jaipuria,Executive VP & General Manager,Sonic and Nick India,attributes the trend to the history of animation in India. For a long time,India was a production outsourcing destination for international animations. Their conceptualisation used to be done abroad due to lack of good scriptwriters in India. “When a strong need for Indian content emerged a few years ago,it was easy to resort to mythology,” she explains.

However,these stories were already heard and a fatigue eventually set in. So the next logical step was to place these characters in contemporary setting so that children could relate to them. “The likeness to mythology is dwindling. The character Kris in Roll No 21 on Cartoon Network,which is based on Lord Krishna,is extremely popular with kids and only has a few traits in common with Lord Krishna. Kumbh Karan may remind one of the demon in Ramayana,but it is the story of fun-loving twin brothers,” says Krishna Desai,Director,Programming,South Asia,Turner International India Pvt. Ltd.

For long-term business,mythology as a theme has proved to be a drawback too. According to Jaipuria,creating an animation series is expensive and the cost is often recovered by reselling it internationally.

Mythology with Indian references also does not find takers outside. “It is time to create universal characters and stories,” she adds. Indian literature,in this case,makes for good choice.

Disney started with Karadi Tales,Ek Tha Jungle and The Adventures of King Vikram. Cartoon Network as part of its ‘Desi Toons’ strategy,had aired Chhota Birbal and Sihasan Battisi in 2003-04. The channel later showed the 26-episode Amar Chitra Katha.

Nick,on the other hand,has created the first Indian superhero series Shaktimaan based on the Doordarshan show. Their Keymon Ache is the first original Indian animation,which has not been inspired by any pre-existing characters.

“It is about nine-year-old Rohan Tendulkar and his magical friend Keymon. The show is among our highest TRP-grabbers and has been exported to the West by dubbing Tendulkar as Thompson,” she says.

Despite all this,the dominance of Tom and Jerry and Ben 10 continues. But Desai maintains that ethnicity does not decide the audience in case of animation. Jaipuria sound more optimistic. “It is only a matter of time that things will change. The change will be visible when India begins to look outside of mythology for stories,” she says.

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