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Film-maker Ketan Mehta and Vice President-Marketing, Discovery Networks Asia Pacific, Rajiv Bakshi discuss the coming of age of Indian animation, infotainment and their new series Kisna.

Mumbai | Updated: October 24, 2014 1:00:55 am
Kisna Kisna

By Karan Shah

Watching cartoons are an integral part of every child’s life. Who can forget shows like Tom and Jerry, Richie Rich, Power Puff Girls, the craze of which doesn’t seem to fade away, even now. But while old cartoons are still popular, there’s a growing demand for new concepts. That’s how Kisna, a story about an adventurous and amusing young boy from Anandnagri came into being. At a press interaction, Ketan Mehta and Bakshi who have come together for the first time, talk about Kisna that was launched on October 19.

What prompted Discovery Kids to telecast Kisna?

Rajiv Bakshi: Although Discovery Kids is a big channel, we have entered this genre a little late (The channel was launched in July, 2012 when India already had other children’s channels like Disney, Cartoon Network, Pogo and Nickelodeon). These channels cater to about 370 million kids in the country who watch such fare for almost 10 hours a day. Initially, when we launched Discovery Kids, we associated with international franchises, but later we decided to localise the content in order to be widely accepted. Besides, we wanted to be different from others, and give information along with entertainment that would help children get approval from their parents while watching our programmes. We have already done Sally Bollywood, Akbar Birbal, etc.While thinking about the next big thing, we came up with Kisna. It’s one of the biggest series that we have done till date, and will go on for at least a year.

How did the project come to you, and what did you think of it?

Ketan Mehta: Animation as a sector is growing rapidly in India because of the popularity of the genre among the gen-next. My company, Maya, is the largest creator of original animation content in India. When Discovery connected with us and wanted to explore possibilities in the kids segment, we were overjoyed. We pitched a couple of ideas and zeroed in on Kisna. When you say Kisna, an Indian would associate it with charm, wit and adventure.
The idea, however, was not to create a mythological story, but a contemporary and
adventurous story for kids, which is rooted in the Indian milieu, that offers infotainment
and also ignites the spirit of India in a child. I thus loved it and we went ahead.

Do you want to give any particular message through the show?

KM: Giving a message through a TV show is passe. It is not even accepted by children anymore. Instead of conveying a message, we are providing them with a world view that is more contemporary and combines entertainment with learning.

RB: We are also emphasizing the victory of good over evil through Kisna and that’s the reason we launched it as a Diwali Dhamaka.

Who is Kisna and what is its basic plot?

KM: It revolves around the adventures of a young boy who is witty and charming. The idea is to create an intelligent protagonist with super powers, who will connect with today’s children. Presently, children are exposed to content from across the world, and thus we thought of giving them sensible Indian content. This will help them learn a few things about friendship, loyalty, respect, science, history and heritage among others.

How have you improved on the quality of animation used in the serial?

KM: We have taken animation a notch higher, compared to what is available in India. Over the years, we have been importing animated content, but now was a chance to venture into this field on our own and tap the huge market, especially when we have great animators. We have also used a lot of new age technology.

Will Kisna be telecast abroad as well? Are you planning to dub it in different languages?

KM: All these years we have been importing content. We should soon start exporting content as well, and we plan to telecast it overseas.

RB: Discovery Kids has been telecasting shows in English, Hindi and Tamil for quite some time now. Even Kisna will be telecast in these three languages. Since Discovery Kids is present in 120 countries, we intend to telecast our other shows too, however, it is a democratic process, which depends on the local programmers in the country. They select it based on the local culture and what they think the audience will accept.

Ketan, will you be working on any more projects with Discovery?

KM: It’s our first association with them and this is just the beginning. Hopefully, there will be many more projects with them if they like us. They are backing the project and the entire creative team is helping the development of the series. It is the rising curve for Indian animation content. The West has had 60-70 years of experience in this field, but our’s is a 10-year-old industry. We are still learning to produce world class content while focusing on the Indian audience. Discovery has also researched children’s preferences which has helped us create this programme.

Is infotainment the way forward for television entertainment?

KM: I have always maintained that entertainment doesn’t necessarily need to be mindless. We, in India, have undervalued the term entertainment. In Hindi, we have a much better word — manoranjan — which means, we not only touch the heart, but also stiumulate the mind. For me, triggering off a thought process is entertainment. I believe infotainment is the key to development.

RB: We have conducted a study among children where we asked them their reasons behind watching certain programmes. Their response stunned us as they said they learn from those shows. We may consider it mindless, but they are learning from it.

What would be the takeaway for kids from Kisna?

KM: All protagonists tend to become role models. We are extremely careful during the scripting process about not conveying any negative message.

RB: We want children to imbibe the qualities of respect, friendship, knowledge, science, love and affection for parents from the character. These are qualities they should replicate.

What are the other infotainment shows on Discovery Kids?

RB: We have Sally Bollywood, the story of a girl with dark complexion who tops her class and is ‘cool’. We also have Mister Maker, an art and craft show which is popular as it teaches children to create beautiful things.

What is the future of infotainment and animation in the country?

RB and KM: This is the way forward for India and our children. It’s time for Indian animation to bloom. So far, we have been outsourcing , now, it’s time to do it ourselves. We have such a large market which we should exploit. Kisna’s animated content on Indian television is of superior quality, but there’s a lot more scope ahead. Infotainment is the key to success. If kids can learn how to use an iPhone at the age of one and a half, then we can groom them with infotainment too.

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