Bollywood now on a road less travelled
Eclectic collections of films featuring animated gods and goddesses, puppy love stories and much more are in the offing for youth and kids in 2007. The film industry, which had overlooked the 'tweens' (kids and teens) genre for decades, is for a change stepping on to this road less travelled.
So far there have been very few films for children to talk about - they are Shekhar Kapur's 'Mr India', Vishal Bharadwaj's 'Makadee', Sangeeta Ahir's 'Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi' and Rakesh Roshan's 'Koi... Mil Gaya' and V.G. Samant's 'Hanuman'.
But now big production houses like Adlabs, UTV and Percept Picture Company (PPC) are preparing a mixed bag of entertainers for both teenagers and children which will give them a break from Bollywood's run-of-the-mill movies.
Sidhartha Jain, who heads animation divisions at Adlabs, told IANS: 'This sudden awakening is due to a couple of reasons. It's a combination of more multiplexes, a huge young population in cities who have more spending power and a genuine demand from audiences for a better variety of content and pent-up demand from kids.'
Adlabs is producing 'Superstar', a 3D animated movie starring Rajnikanth, which is meant for both - kids and adults. Also, 'Gini & Jony', which is based on the characters of the clothing brand of the same name, is an animated movie for kids. Both are targeting a 2008 release.
'This new trend is also fuelled by various consumer brands that now target kids as a segment and are willing to spend more marketing money. 'Gini & Jony' is a good example of branded entertainment for kids. So, a combination of various factors is making the kids segment more attractive as a market,' added Jain.
UTV is coming up with two Indian mythological films to be directed by Simi Nalaseth of the 'Ice Age' fame and Arnab Goswami respectively.
PPC is readying part two of its super hit animation film 'Hanuman 2' for a Diwali release. And it is also coming up with its first teen film called 'Mera Pehla Pehla Pyaar'.
With these films in the offing, it is obvious that the need to address children and youth is well understood by film producers and they are taking essential steps to serve quality films to the younger generation.
Apart from producing movies for youth, UTV's animation division has recently clinched a deal worth $14 million with Porch Light Entertainment, producer and distributor of the award winning preschool series, 'Jay Jay The Jet Plane', to produce the first Jay Jay feature length animated movie titled 'Jay Jay's Race Around The World'.
UTV has also collaborated with Los Angeles-based Mike Young Productions' distribution arm Taffy Entertainment and Method Film France for TV series 'Cosmic Quantum Ray' and an animation services deal for 13 hours of a combination of direct to DVD titles and TV episodes in 3D animation.
Mike Young Productions is no stranger to India. It had been producing 3D animation with Mumbai-based Crest Communications for several years.
Also, UTV is set to launch Bindass - a broadcasting venture association with Malaysia-based media company Astro Measat, which will focus on the youth segment. The production house is pumping in Rs.2 billion to launch the channels in multiple languages, a web channel, a mobile channel.
'Fun, frank, fearless and valuing freedom in all its forms - Bindass captures the essence of our brand's values,' said Zarina Mehta, COO of Youth Venture.
'As much as 23 percent of the viewership of cable and satellite television comes from the youth space which is currently very underserved by existing broadcast offerings. The UTV team is currently immersed in understanding the need gaps in this segment and working on innovative ways to address them,' added Mehta.
Jain feels the trade circle has been partially responsible for the lacklustre attitude towards the children genre because the willingness to take the financial risk was nil.
'But things are changing now and the day we will have two-three films that become financial successes, there will be huge rush to make such films. And that day is not far away,' said Jain.
Shailendra Singh of PPC feels that this market is still untapped. He said: 'We don't make cinema for this age group at all. MP3 is very simple, very entertaining and I think this is going to relate to everybody because everybody had a first kiss at some point in their life.'
With funding in place, the Indian producers are now willing to take a big leap and promise to deliver something as opulent and entertaining as 'Harry Potter'.
'I believe that 2008 will kick off a huge trend for high quality entertainment for the tweens segment and budgets will become viable. Actually, one will see more content like 'Harry Potter', which will cater to a family audience where films will have more visually exciting fantasy subjects, and will need high budgets to produce them. I expect 2008 to 2010 to be defining years for kid-youth entertainment,' said Jain.
Agreed Ravi Chopra of 'Baghban', who is also planning to make films for tweens. 'This has a huge potential and in the near future we are going to have a huge number of films in this genre,' he said.
However, the most eagerly awaited release in this segment remains Bharadwaj's 'Blue Umbrella', the acclaimed director's second children's film based on a story by Ruskin Bond.