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For some comic relief

Published on : July 07, 2010
For some comic relief

by Sravanthi Challapalli


Happiness and innocence pervade one; darkness and fear of impending doom mark another. As creative works, Bommi and Friends and comicJump are very different in form, scope and treatment. One is aimed at children, the other's trying not to be mistaken for a children's-only venture. Common to both, though, is the wish to contribute something quintessentially Indian to Indians and the world. Both Chennai-based Image Ventures and Bangalore-based Level 10 Comics say that despite the vast diversity of Indian culture it's a shame its comic/cartoon heroes and icons don't go beyond the likes of Hanuman and Krishna, or that Indians have to look outside their country for ‘comic relief'.

“This has not only robbed writers of the opportunity to weave their own fables, but also nudged a generation of talent towards animation and outsourced artwork for small publishers in the UK and the US. There has never truly been a fan culture or movement in India. No comic conventions, no costume plays, no action figure or collectibles market,” say Shreyas Shrinivas and Suhas Sundar of Level 10 Comics, who have just launched comicJump, a monthly magazine featuring comic serials.

Image Ventures is bubbling over with excitement about the first season of Bommi & Friends, its 13-episode, animated cartoon series for children, which is all ready for telecast. “Why not Bommi when Barbie can be so popular?” says A. P. Sivayogen, Executive Producer and Director (Technical & Business Affairs) at the company, which provides VFX and animation services for TV serials, home videos and advertisements. Through this series, the company wants to raise awareness of the self in relation to one's culture and instill pride and self-esteem among children and help them appreciate similarities, respect differences and understand the interdependence of people in a community.

The animation studio, however, is eyeing a much larger market than India – its distributor Octapixx Worldwide will distribute the series to various channels including Kidsco, a global children's TV network for pre-schoolers, children aged 6-10 and families, which will telecast it in about 60-80 countries across continents. Incidentally, KidsCo also sources ‘idents' (fillers) on current events from Image Ventures - so far, the studio has worked on idents on Id, Easter and the ongoing World Cup soccer. The company also has plans to merchandise the characters through apparel, toys, games and online media, including a virtual world. It expects to release the first 90-minute DVD by end-2010. Negotiations are on to launch Bommi in India on more than one kids' channel by the end of the year.

Four years ago, when Image Ventures tested the possibility of creating its own IP, three characters the creative team came up with stood out - a dog, a giraffe, and an elephant. Combining inputs from renowned storytellers Jeeva Raghunath and Nandini Sridhar, Bommi was born. Though the stories play out in Dazzle Land, Bommi is described as very Indian and a simple village girl to boot: she wears long skirts, sports bangles and enjoys Indian food including jangri (though she had to go without a bindi as it could be seen as a religious symbol, upon advisors' recommendations, say IV executives).

At the MIPCOM TV market (International Film and Programme Market for Television, Video, Cable and Satellite) in Cannes, France, it was suggested Bommi be an international character and the series was designed and developed with help from international writers and voice-over artistes to make it a global property. This venture was two-and-a-half years in the making and took $2 million (Rs 8.5 crore) to make. Image Ventures plans more seasons of Bommi, and to produce 24 home video titles, two feature films and a couple of TV series, investing $20 million, say founders R. Mathiseelan and K.R. Senthil Kumar.

Funding & Belief

Such ventures “need funding, and need belief,” says Sivayogen with a wistful smile, adding that both commodities are hard to come by. The 13-year-old Image Ventures has funded this mostly through family and internal accruals as well as a bank loan and ploughed back most of what it makes into Bommi, and hopes to increase its turnover to $40 million by 2015.


(courtey: Hindu Business Line)

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