For decades, the iconic Mickey Mouse, and Tom and Jerry have ruled the hearts of kids globally, including India. The last few years, however, has seen Indian kids taking to Indian characters in a bigger way. The trend was set by Chhota Bheem, which has become a household name now.
Similarly, Nickelodeon India's Motu Patlu and Pakdam Pakdai get the channel the maximum ratings. Local content, says Krishna Desai, Executive Director and Network Head (Kids), Turner International India, contributes close to 45 per cent of the viewership of Pogo and Cartoon Network.
While Motu Patlu and Chhota Bheem have been created especially for kids' television, an upcoming trend is that kids' channels are betting on Bollywood franchises. Though still early days, Turner, after tasting success with Kid Krrish (the animated version of the Bollywood blockbuster Krrish), has recently kicked off a four-part movie series on Ramesh Sippy's Sholay. "Kid Krrish gave us an average rating of 0.4 GRPs (gross rating points), which inspired us to try out other Bollywood franchises," says Desai.
So, how do Bollywood franchises in the kids' genre work? In the case of Sholay, the popular Jai and Veeru have been aged down to eight to nine-year-olds, and have been shown as naughty, street smart kids, and Basanti is often at the receiving end of their pranks.
Though it is set in Ramgarh, the story has an element of fantasy. Gabbar, for instance, doesn't ride a horse. Instead he travels in a weaponised vehicle, his team is called the Fright Force and they want to rule the world. Both Jai and Veeru are gadget freaks and each time they are attacked by the Fright Force, they use a whole array of gadgets to fight back.
While Turner is betting on Bollywood franchises, Nina Elavia Jaipuria, EVP & Business Head, Nickelodeon, says she prefers to grow their own local characters like Motu Patlu into big franchises. "If we do Bollywood franchises, we can't own the IP and that is limiting. Our own characters give us the flexibility to create multiple streams of monetisation." The kids' channel has created a Motu Patlu movie franchise and has already aired five Motu Patlu films. It's also planning to shortly launch Motu Patlu merchandise.
Though the approach of the country's leading kids networks are different, the common thread is that all of them are betting on local content.
Manmohan Shetty, Chairman, Adlabs, also shared a similar view in a recent interview with Business Today, wherein he had said that he saw more merit in building franchises of his own local characters at his theme park Imagica rather than paying heavy franchise fees for leading international characters. A popular ride at Imagica is Mr India, which is inspired by the Bollywood film of the 1980s. In fact, Imagica is trying to build a franchise of one of the Mr India characters, Mogambo.