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Ketan Mehta Calls for Indian Animation to Adopt ‘Global Mindset’

Ketan Mehta, the revered Indian filmmaker who also serves as founder and chair of animation house Cosmos-Maya, known for long-running animated Nickelodeon show “Motu Patlu,” says that the global companies who operate TV channels in India create content that is local-specific and fails to resonate with international audiences.

Mehta was speaking at the ongoing Mumbai International Film Festival which hosted a lively panel debate on animation. The discussion featured some of the top Iranian and Indian names in the business.

“It’s a vicious circle that we are caught in, it’s a fight that we have often,” Mehta said. “We need to break out of this. We need a creative ambition, which is greater than just our domestic market, you need a global mindset that says that you are reaching out to the whole world. We are all global citizens now, in one way or the other, we are exposed to content from all over the world.”

The filmmaker said that India is brimming over with creativity and talent, but the two main constraints in the animation market are lack of funding and distribution. It is a similar situation in Iran said “Dolphin Boy” filmmaker Mohammed Kheirandish. Iran is not big enough a territory to sustain purely locally animation production and the country’s industry relies on international sales, Kheirandish said.

Vaibhav Kumaresh, who created another long-running show “Lamput” for Cartoon Network, said that the character Lamput was not planned specifically for India or the global market. “The property itself had a very universal appeal. So we kept the storytelling and the visual design in that way,” Kumaresh said.

Kumaresh said that, compared to live-action filmmaking, Indian animation is at a fledgling stage. “I cannot make a global film, because I don’t know a global audience. I have been making films for the Indian audience for more than two decades. And I think I have the pulse of that. I know that something will appeal to them or something that will not appeal. And then I can very confidently give them what I like,” Kumaresh said.

Next up for Kumaresh is his animation feature film debut “Return of the Jungle.” Locally-produced animation movies have mostly struggled at the Indian box office. “I think we need to first crack India. If we cannot entertain India, forget the globe, we are neither going to be there, nor here,” Kumaresh said.

“Return of the Jungle” tackles the universal theme of bullying. “We are at the worst point when it comes to Indian animated feature films – losses after losses – we’ve probably dug our own grave. We are all trying too hard to get out of it,” Kumaresh said.

Meanwhile, Mehta has completed pre-production on “Kim,” an animated adaption of Rudyard Kipling’s 1901 India-set novel. “Yes, we are rooted. Yes, we have strengths, our culture is strong, it can be expressed, but then it has to be received by the whole world,” Mehta said.

Producer and actor Jackky Bhagnani has also ventured into animation. “I feel that we have so much talent here. We just need the right capital, and we need the right platform. And then, I feel, the sky’s the limit for us.”

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