Chhota Bheem, India’s beloved animated character with cherubic charm, is likened to a legendary Greek hero.
“Imagine Hercules who’s naturally born with extraordinary strength,” said Rajiv Chilaka, the creator of Chhota Bheem, in an interview with Gulf News tabloid!.
Rooted in Indian culture and simple story telling, the hit orange dhoti-clad character who loves ladoos and saving the unfortunate will take you to China in his latest adventure ‘Chhota Bheem Kung fu Dhamaka’.
Excerpts from our interview with Chilaka ...
Q: Tell us about ‘Chhota Bheem Kung fu Dhamaka’?
A: It’s a complete entertainer, not just for children but for all ages. Even if you don’t know who Chhota Bheem is, you don’t have to be familiar with them to enjoy this film. Through research before we began on this film, we found out that kung fu is extremely popular among kids. So we have Kung fu as the central theme. In this film, Bheem and team travel to China to participate in a Kung fu tournament and after the first round, the story takes an unexpected turn when China’s princess gets kidnapped. All the contestants unite to fight the villain and get back their princess. In terms of quality, it’s on par with any Western film.
Q: What do you think is the appeal behind your creation Chhota Bheem?
A: Our idea behind creating a character like Bheem is to give Indian children something to connect with their Indian roots. I wanted them to connect with someone who lives like them on a day-to-basis. His festivals are yours too. Bheem does that. When rural kids in India, who have no exposure, see shows where they are celebrating Easter. Some may even feel inferior to the rest of the world. I wanted them to realise that just because they don’t know something, doesn’t make them not on par. We created Bheem keeping in mind the concept of simple story telling with roots entrenched in Indian culture. We wanted an Indian superhero whom our children can identify with. Usually, a character on a TV show has a lifespan of three to four years, but we have been here for 11 years.
Q: The animation industry is a nascent one and is only 20 years old. Do you think you are at a disadvantage here?
A: Given the right platform, a studio in India can beat any studio in the world. It’s all about the right people, the right formula [and] good visualisers coming together. To give you an example, we have a new show called ‘The Mighty Little Bheem’ on Netflix which is now a top show for preschool kids category. So, we are doing better than any other Western show in that category. In terms of quality, you can achieve the same quality as any Western animation if you spend enough time and intensity on it. What India lacks is experience and that can be gained only by making films. It will take us some time to get everything right… Honestly, we didn’t try to imitate any other style of animation like anime or Disney. For us the storytelling aspect is the most important. We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel.
Q: Was budget a big constraint? If there’s Jungle Book playing in the cinemas and your film too, many are likely to watch Jungle Book … Was it tough getting a distributor?
A: If you think of budgets in animation, you may never be able to make an animation film. As you rightly said, many will watch The Jungle Book since their marketing is strong and the characters have been around for a while. In India, there’s this perception that animation is only for children. So that’s abysmal. That’s not the case in the rest of the globe. In places like Korea, there’s no such distinctions. Adults come in good numbers. Regarding distribution, for a brand like Chhota Bheem, getting a distributor wasn’t a big challenge inside India. Getting one outside India was difficult. When YRF saw our film, they were happy with the quality. Our major challenge is to get people to come and watch this film in the cinemas. But we need to keep trying.
Q: What are your thoughts on the reviews that have come your way for this film? A reviewer commented on the title character being flawless?
A: Reviews are important and parents look up what the press is saying before taking their children to the cinemas. There’s always a good moral behind our films. It’s important to give a message to children too. One of the biggest compliment we are getting is that this film in on par with any Western animation film. For us, nothing has come easy and we take every review in our stride. All we need is a good platform to showcase an Indian story with Indian characters.
OTHER ANIMATION FILMS FROM INDIA:
Chhota Bheem isn’t the only animated series that originated in India. Here’s a look at a few others that took a stab at animation:
‘Roadside Romeo’ (2008)
Debutante director and actor Jugal Hansraj tried his hand at animation with Roadside Romeo about dog-eat-dog underworld. This film was a collaboration between Walt Disney Pictures and Yash Raj Films and had actors such as Saif Ali Khan, Jaaved Jaaferi and Sanjay Mishra lending their voice.
This animation fantasy was star-powered with Rajinikanth as its lead, but even his legendary charisma couldn’t save this doomed vehicle. While it introduced Avatar-like technology into our lives, it was not giant leap.
‘Toonpur Ka Superhero’ (2010)
Featuring Ajay Devgn, Kajol, Sanjay Mishra and Tanuja in lead roles, this film was India’s first live-action-3D animation combination feature. It had Devgn play Aditya, an actor with a hit superhero character to his name. His kids find him ordinary, but he gets chance to redeem himself in their eyes when a bunch of characters abduct him to Toonpur, a land rocked by political unrest. As far as creative experiments go, this one was a keeper.
Don’t Miss It!
‘Chhota Bheem Kung Fu Dhamaka’ is out in the UAE on June 13.