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Local toons, global class

Indian toons can make international grade, says Ashish S. Kulkarni, who has been chosen an Associate for the body that presents the prestigious Emmy Awards

TRENDS IN television viewing change every year. And this goes for children's programmes too, says Ashish S. Kulkarni, COO, jadooWorks, an animation studio based in Bangalore. Now elected an Associate of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the body that initiates the prestigious Emmy Awards every year, Mr. Kulkarni should know best on the issue. JadooWorks has, over the years, successfully marketed several animation films for studios in Hollywood. Mr. Kulkarni believes that Indian animation industry has the potential to succeed in the highly-competitive global market.

Here are excerpts from a chat with Ashish Kulkarni:

Tell us more about your appointment to the board of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

I have been unanimously elected as an Associate of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, U.S., for a period of two years. There are three of us from India. This is the largest organisation as far as worldwide television/broadcasting is concerned. Our contribution is to look into policies, trends, and challenges facing television and its broadcasting, the world over. I will also be judging the children's programs for the next Emmy awards.

What is the scope for children's programs in India?

We are looking at bringing some good animation into India. Even India can produce animation that could easily be an international crossover programme, of course, with dubbing. This is not entirely possible with a live drama series. We are also actively looking at the home video market for television series and animated feature films for children in India.

What is the flavour of the season where children are concerned?

Family-oriented programs are certainly in. Simsons is very big right now. Children are associating themselves with animation characters largely, such as Power Puff Girls and Pokemon.

What about Indian animation characters?

We need to put pressure on the broadcasting channels to bring out some toons with regional Indian flavour. Currently, programming is all being done by Indian animation studios without any support from the networks. The networks are only syndicating the existing animation content, which is not much. Channels should start co-producing these, so that a good deal of original programming happens from India for regional and global markets.

Do Indian animation characters have a global appeal?

We at jadooWorks have brought out some original stuff for a global audience, such as Go Gopal and Bombay Dogs. Go Gopal is a series on Krishna's early life in Vrindavan. We have put in over a year of research on Krishna's appeal on global audiences, and Jeffrey Scott, five times Emmy Award winner, has penned the script, while Farrukh Dhondy has worked on Bombay Dogs. The character design and animation has been done here but the dubbing etc. is done in the U.S., so we have taken care of the global angle. Of course, our experience with Universal Studios, Warner Brothers, Wild Brain, Mike Young Productions gives us an edge too.

How different is the television trend in India, as compared to the US?

Indian television is largely into the high society family drama thing with a great deal of "me too" programmes. In America, there is a fair combination of television soaps, drama, comedy etc.. Another difference is in the local county programming in the U.S., which is absent here. In India, regional programming is driven by language not local activities. Again, children's programs are more age group focussed in the American market. The target age groups are well defined and adhered to. For example, Popeye is an exclusive show for nine-11 year olds. In India, everyone is watching everything, while there you have specific animation programmes targeted at adults too.

With your election to the board, do you plan to effect some changes here too?

We hope to bring the preliminary rounds of judging (children's programmes) to Bangalore next year. There would be several entries, with some International and prominent Indian jurists judging them over a couple of days. We are hoping jadooWorks will host the event. That would put Bangalore on the international television map.


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