No child's play, this one!
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No child's play, this one!

First Hanuman, then Chicken Little in Hindi as Chhotu Sarkar. Animation has arrived in India, writes Yojana Sharma. Chicken Little spl

india Updated: Dec 28, 2005 15:01 IST

The sky is falling! No, not on us but on Chicken Little who sprung on Indian screens this weekend. Walt Disney’s latest flick was released in India on December 23 along with its Hindi version, Chhotu Sarkar. "Good for the kids" you say but here’s the twist. This kiddie adventure cost Walt Disney $60 million. That’s big money and equally big is the business involved with this animation adventure.

With a kiddie tag attached to animation, does it sell in India? "Animation is a different segment but gradually it is picking up in India. Now that we have indigenous Indian animations (Hanuman) things definitely appear bright,” says Varma who points out that Indian tales and lores are a treasure waiting to be utilised. A sequel to Hanuman is being planed and also a toon flick on Krishna is coming up.

India also has a huge unexplored market for animation movies in Hindi and dubbed versions such as Chhotu Sarkar. Saurav Varma, the head of marketing division of PVR cineplexes, says,"Hanuman collected 1.35, 000 in gross. This is a total of collections at all the PVR centers and was much more than Harry Potter," says Verma.

Animation seems to be the next big thing in India then. Hanuman was also hailed by Bollywood critics, who labelled it as one of the biggest achievements of Indian cinema. The film also received accolades from Sony picture, who despite being rivals in business, supported the producers for widening the market for animation movies. "We were happy when Hanuman did well because this indicates a new era in the animation market," says Nitin Bikchandani, the regional sales manager (North India) for Sony Pictures.

"Animation does fairly well but it involves a huge cost of production. Hence, it is difficult to recuperate the production cost for such films," explains Bikchandani. Dubbing films, promoting them, sales activities and screening further make it an expensive proposition. "A single print of ChickenLittle costs Rs 35,000. We plan to release 25 prints of Chicken Little and 10 of Chotu Sarkar currently. Later we will release more prints for other centers… so you can imagine the enormous money involved in it," says Bikchandani.

Though the voiceovers of Chicken Little boast of biggies like Zach Braff,Sony did not chase big names for dubbing Chicken Little. It took 4 to 6 weeks to dub Chhotu Sarkar in Hindi.

Last year’s release, The Incredibles, had Shah Rukh Khan and his son Aryan dubbing for the animation flick. "SRK was the film’s (Hum Hain Lajawab) premium. It collected approximately 39 lakhs from PVR,” shares Verma. Needless to say that he has high hopes from Chhotu Sarkar as well.

The film has been released in major centers like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune and Indore for now but will be taken to the smaller centers as well. "We plan to take it to centers like Meerut, Allahabad, Varanasi etc in the second stage. Chhotu Sarkar will be a hit with the smaller centers,” says a confident Bikchandani.

PVR shares the sentiment. "The multiplex audience is already aware of Chicken Little and we expect it to click with them and Chhotu Sarkar will definitely appeal to the suburban audience," says Varma.

Chicken Little can also be viewed in a 3-D format, a fact that few know about. However, the 3-D version didn’t click with the audience in US and a similar forecast could be done for India too. Sony is releasing the 3-D format in Chennai but are our theaters compatible with this technology? "No great technology is involved in 3-D. It’s just that you viewit with the 3-D spectacles. We hope that it will click in Chennai," says Bikchandani. Chennai’s Sathyam Complex, which is featuring the film, is the only centre in India to support this technology.

Bikchandani feels, "Indian audiences do not understand the difference between a cartoon and a animation, but the international exposure is defiantly changing things," he says. Given a competition between Indian animation and dubbed foreign animation, the former will defiantly do better. So here is hoping more Hanumans come our way.

First Published: Dec 28, 2005 15:01 IST