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Bollywood should explore superhero films with long-term licensing: Cosmos-Maya's Anish Mehta

Cosmos-Maya has recently released Dabanng-The Animated Series.

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\Mumbai: Anish JS Mehta started his career as an accounts executive in 2003, and over time, he has managed to reach new heights. In 2010, he became the chief operating officer of Cosmos-Maya, a leading animation studio in India. Two years later, Mehta was promoted as the chief executive officer (CEO) and since then, he has been a key player in the Indian animation industry catalysing the production of noted anime shows that include the iconic Motu Patlu. 

Cosmos-Maya has recently launched Salman Khan’s Dabang as an animation series Dabanng-The Animated Series, which is now available for streaming on Disney+Hotstar VIP, in Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi. This animated series is also being streamed on Cartoon Network. 

As the series receives rave reviews from audiences and critics, Indiantelevision.com's Nirmal Narayanan got into a conversation with Cosmos Maya CEO Anish JS Mehta to track the journey of Cosmos Maya in creating the animated avatar of Chulbul Pandey, and the future of the animation industry in India. 

Edited Excerpts

On collaborating with Salman Khan and Arbaaz Khan for Dabanng-The Animated Series

Dabangg-The Animated Series is one of the biggest film franchise extensions executed for Indian TV. We have released the show with CartoonNetwork as our TV broadcast partner and Disney+Hotstar as our streaming partner. Since the start of the pandemic, we have been working to create more original animated content titles in greater volumes to suit the increased consumption by kids staying at home. We spoke to Arbaaz Khan the owner of the franchise and created our vision of the animated series. Both the channel partners loved the concept and provided the backing to bring the show before the audience.

On the audience response to the series

It’s been a week since the series went live on TV and OTT, and we have received a great response to the characters and their new colourful world. There has been a decent amount of buzz, especially within the franchise's existing fanbase, and it’s been liked by kids and their families alike. We have also been getting a lot of queries for the licensing & merchandising extension for Dabangg across the categories such as gaming, Apparel, Toys & Promotional licensing. We have some exciting associations lined up. 

On choosing a character like Chulbul Pandey 

The Dabangg series and its lead Chulbul Pandey has been a mega-franchise in India for the past 11 years and adapting the super cop to a kids’ format was a creative challenge, but it was also a fun opportunity. But, the principal challenge was to do justice to the source material. When we are adapting a pre-existing template into a new look, we need to capture the quirks and the idiosyncrasies of the characters as they were originally brought to life by their actors and filmmakers. Also, Dabangg is one of the few Indian animated shows to feature the same adult version of the lead character, unlike most series that go with a child-like avatar of their source character. Our creative team captured the likeness and the ticks of not just Chulbul but also his entire posse including Makhi, Rajjo, and Tiwariji. 

On the future of animated series on OTT platforms

The industry is witnessing growth on every platform and across a plethora of genres. The genre has a consistently growing presence on domestic TV, and with the OTT boom during the past few years, animation producers have utilized the mutual coexistence model, where the content releases with a TV and OTT partner simultaneously. Pay-TV usually works on a volume and sequential storytelling system, especially in areas with lesser internet penetration, and OTT audiences get to watch and choose and binge the episodes in their time and convenience. Balancing and blending the show’s presence on both formats was a creative challenge in itself.

On creating an Indian animated superhero for global audience

We have a bevy of superheroes from the Indian film and comic book ecosystem that have immense business potential to emerge as individual franchises. However, most commercial Indian films have audiences, which is used to their regular film heroes having superhero status. Until Bollywood decides to venture into superhero flicks with a long-term licensing and merchandising plan, we should not expect any such projects out of India in the foreseeable future.

On the impact of Covid pandemic on the animation industry

We had over a year to synergize our work processes from home, and it worked out. We have released seven new shows since April 2020. The animation industry collectively did not face a severe impact, like the live-action entertainment industry. The entire team at Cosmos-Maya adapted to the status quo extremely well which helped us to accelerate the workforce like before and pace up the production to deliver content on time.

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