Tuesday, 22 August 2017

'Indian animation industry needs home grown heroes'

Mythological characters like Ram and Ravana have been favourites of animation content providers in India. But the industry needs more home-grown superheroes to gain popularity and appeal to international audiences as well, says Rajiv Chilaka, founder and CEO of Green Gold Animation. 

Chilaka believes there's a need for character-based stories with universal appeal.

"We have to go beyond Ram and Ravana. If we are looking at mythology-based characters, we could even look at the story of Sugriva or even Kumbhkarna. These stories can appeal to international audiences as well," said Chilaka.

"We need to have more home-grown superheroes. How long will we celebrate Spider-Man and Batman? Look at what Baahubali gave us. Real, easily relatable superheroes and those characters will never be forgotten," he said.

Talking from the experience of being in the animation industry for over a decade, Chilaka has closely followed the changing phase of the Rs 51.1 billion (according to the 2015 Ficci-KPMG report) Indian animation industry.

"In 2001, there was only one kids channel and today there are over 15 TV Networks dedicated to kids and a few more in the pipeline. Some of the biggest companies now have their footprint in animation industry due to the high demand for content," he said, pointing out that there is growing animated production in India.

He went on to add that there are over 300 animation, 40 visual effects and 85 game development studios with over 15,000 professionals catering to movies and small screen content for children and regional platforms.

Most popular for introducing Chhota Bheem to the world, Chilaka's company is on a mission to find its next big character.

"We are not looking at one next big character. We are looking at seven to eight characters, so that the company can sustain for the next 10-15 years," he said.

The company is simultaneously working on films.

"This year, we plan to bring out two 3D animated films; 'Chhota Bheem Kung Fu Dhamaka' and 'Mahiraavan', a mythological story about Ravana's brother," he added.

Asked about the future of Chhota Bheem, he said: "It will continue growing as a brand. From an animated character, it made it to television, T-shirts, and to even on the wrapper of biscuit packets. It's undoubtedly the biggest entertainment brand in the country."

Around 30 per cent of the company's revenue comes from merchandising.

"The success of Bheem as a character has made it possible. Popular animated characters never fade away with time. Mickey Mouse, for instance, is popular in India not as an animated character but as a brand. A 90-year-old grandfather can also wear a Chhota Bheem T-shirt because he would have watched the show with his grandchildren," he said.

Thanks to the popularity of the character in Indian households, it's even being made into a live action feature.

"It's still a work-in-progress idea. But we do plan to make a live action film featuring Chhota Bheem and real actors, possibly stars, if we can bring them on board. We are also working on an animated show called 'Baby Bheem'," he added.