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Cosmos-Maya's new kids' animation show Bapu: An ode to Gandhi

Highlighting some of Mahatma Gandhi’s sayings incorporated in episodes

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Cosmos-Maya’s brand new show ‘Bapu’ was premiered by Disney India on 01 May 2020. The date could not have been more felicitous as it also marks the international Labor Day. What a befitting tribute by The Walt Disney Company to the greatest Karma Yogi who ever lived!

“If we are to reach real peace in this world,” Mahatma Gandhi said in 1931, “we shall have to begin with children”. Come 2020, when the world faces the perils of pandemics, wars, climate change, global warming, and plastic pollution, all caused by the over-exploitation of natural resources, inculcating Gandhian values into the lives of our children is the need of the hour.

In this article, I will highlight some of Mahatma Gandhi’s sayings, which have also been incorporated in episodic storylines, and are an integral part of the show itself.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony”

Cosmos-Maya began work on ‘Bapu’ two years ago. Only a month into development, when we pitched the show to Disney India, much to our delight, they greenlit the show at the concept stage itself! Disney has believed in our vision from the word go. For ‘Bapu’ to have become a reality, it could have been done by no other than Disney. The essence of the show is a direct match with the ethos of the Walt Disney Company, and we are happy to have worked with them on this pioneering concept. With ‘Bapu’, we aim to empower kids the world over with Gandhiji’s values in a non-didactic format and communicate Gandhiji’s teachings with child-friendly, responsible, fun and entertaining storytelling. We have exercised our Creative Social Responsibility.

“A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes”

The task was no easy one. Children of the 4-11 age group do not know much about Gandhiji, and the scant knowledge they have is passed on by their elders. This was the backdrop when we envisaged creating an animation IP based on the Mahatma. Gandhi's teachings have to be broken down and simplified for very young children to decode. Children are known to have short attention spans, and hence, they must be kept engaged and entertained so that the message is imprinted in their minds. It was imperative for us to capture their imaginations with catchy visuals and keep them engaged with exciting storytelling and entertained with humor. It has also been our endeavor to make each episode a family viewing affair. The show has been made such that even parents can watch it with their children, and in the process give additional commentary to kids on the Mahatma. Rajkumar Hirani utilized similar strategies to propagate Gandhi's teachings, both in Lage Raho Munnabhai and the video he made last year with top Bollywood celebrities to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of the Mahatma, attempting to remind people of his values and bring him alive within us again.

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

While contemplating the happenings of the last two months, the pre and post Covid eras, I am reminded of a couple of episode plots of the upcoming series. There is one called ‘Shopping Competition’ which highlights the flip side of growing consumerism, where a couple of individuals fight over who can possess more material goods at a given time, thereby overspending and on the verge of bankruptcy, before Bapu steps in to set things right. There is another one where a tiger cub wanders into the neighborhood and causes panic. Bapu comes to the rescue before any harm comes to it. Antagonism towards nature will be our greatest undoing, the Mahatma had prophesied.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”

‘Trends’ like cleanliness, ecological conservation, fitness, healthy eating, and de-cluttering have reappeared and are now normative behaviors, but they were advocated a long time ago by Gandhiji, who lived a frugal and minimalistic, yet purpose-driven life. He advocated for every organism on mother earth living together in harmony, and every human being working for the greater good of society - a give rather than a take approach. Here is a man who dedicated his life to ‘Sarvodaya’, the welfare of the people around him, every last human being, rich and poor, old and young, able-bodied and specially abled, and all of nature’s life forms. 

“Be the change you wish to see in the world”

This show just had to be made. There is very little content for children on Gandhiji. His teachings shall forever be relevant and more such content should be produced the world over. Our children must grow up to be leaders of tomorrow. Who better than Mahatma Gandhi to guide them in their quest? The barrister from Porbandar is a testament to the fact that there is a leader within all of us. ‘Work is Worship’ is a dictum Mahatma Gandhi kept very close to his heart. Labor and faith, according to Gandhiji, were pre-requisites for leadership. The strength required to be able to practice this is what molds a leader. He knew that belief is contagious, that it binds a people. Without belief, the world would be a meaningless place. The man in the loin cloth changed the course of destiny and handed us a bright future. It is now up to us to teach our children well and keep Gandhiji alive forever.

(The writer is CEO of Cosmos-Maya. The views expressed are his own and Indiantelevision.com may not subscribe to them)

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