His star-studded wedding put him on page 3 only a few days ago. But Nitesh Rane is gearing up to make bigger headlines. For the last nine months, the son of the state revenue minister, Narayan Rane, and the founder-president of Swabhiman Sangathan, has been working on a graphic novel, Bal Shivba. The book will be brought out in English and Marathi with E-Sense.
Admitting that it will revolutionise the Marathi comic book scene, Nitesh says that given that the Marathi audience is growing everyday, he wanted to go beyond music and movies and create something new. The protagonist is a cherubic eight-year-old, who, his creator admits, has been inspired by Shivaji.
“I wanted to take the Great Maratha out of our history books and put him in today’s world with its many problems and project him in a different light,” points out Nitesh, whose knee-high hero will be raising questions about contemporary social issues like college suicides, ragging, child abuse, water crisis and global warming. Nitesh points out that we can no longer turn a blind eye to these pressing issues. He, however, realised that when The Simpsons addressed them. And the connection was immediate. “That’s what triggered off the idea of a child hero with fresh ideas and a proactive attitude, unafraid of taking risks,” he says.
Nitesh has every intention of taking his ‘novel’ idea further, building it into a brand franchise through web comics, mobile and VAS games, a TV serial, a mega budget 3D animation film in Marathi, Hindi and English, and merchandise like toys, school bags, water bottles, key chains, T-shirts, caps etc.
“I want this character to stay on in the public mind, and not just in Maharashtra or even India. If Mickey Mouse and Superman can come to our country, why can’t my Bal Shivba go to the US or the UK?” he argues. “I want him walking around in Disneyland. I have a young nephew and I’m happy I could create a character he can grow up with.”
Prod him on future projects and he laughs, “I’ve been completely focused on Bal Shivba. This project has been a life-changing process. Besides, I’ve just got married and am off on my honeymoon this weekend.” Where’s he going? “Hong Kong, Malaysia, Bali… It’s December, winter time, so we want to go to some place sunny.”
Does wife Rutuja know that a frisky eight-year-old will be travelling along with them? He chuckles, “Yeah, she knows, she got him as part of her dowry from me.”