YOUNG WORLD

Building bridges

SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY

SAYING NAMASTE: The four newcomers PHOTO: V.V. KRISHNAN

SAYING NAMASTE: The four newcomers PHOTO: V.V. KRISHNAN  

Come mid-2006, Cartoon Network and Pogo will have four new characters vying for your attention. And what is interesting about them is, they will all have the fragrance of India. Forming part of "Sesame India", the Indian version of the legendary TV series "Sesame Street" founded by Sesame Workshop, a 40-year-old non-profit educational organisation, the four lovable characters are Chamki, Aanchoo, Googly and Boombah, who will befriend kids across the country with their antics and adventures. And wherever cable television has no entry, children there will get to experience them in the form of educational workshops.

Niret Alva of Miditech, the production house behind "Sesame India" jointly with Turner International, says this programme will aim at celebrating the country's diversity by cutting across the rural-urban divide. "It will build bridges between regions, languages and cultures emphasising what unites children across India.

The programme will create a space where children will feel free to explore, question, interact with adults, learn and grow in a non-threatening environment as equals. It will be particularly helpful to pre-schoolers," he says.

To develop the content and characterisation of these four Muppets (as the "Sesame Street" full-body puppets are called) the production house has employed the services of Asha Singh, Reader with the Department of Child Development in Lady Irwin College in New Delhi. Singh says, through the cast, she would aim to address the ethnic and linguistic plurality of India.

Which means, you will get to experience folk tales, folk heroes, local stars, popular sport as well as your common preferences.

While Chamki will meet you as a five-year-old girl in a blue and white school uniform, "specially made to look like a government school student", all eager to explore the world around her, her best friend will be a six-year-old Googly who is meticulous, an introvert and loves to read.

The storyteller among them is Aanchoo, who would take you to far away places, and Boombah is the lion hailing from the royal family of Boombagarh. He loves to dance and make merry.

Niret says, "More than any other character, the emphasis on Chamki's get-up to make her look more like a government school student than any public school mate is aimed at adding importance to the girl child's education in India." Over the years, Sesame Workshop has addressed many vital issues through children in a fun way. For instance, "Sesame Street" in South Africa emphasises on AIDS awareness among school children and in Russia, it stresses on the importance of nutrition.

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