The residents of the fictional Goan town of Mirchi Nagar are a worried lot. The small town, where everybody knows everybody, is constantly under attack. By who? Seems like everyone. Local thieves, evil scientists, wild animals. Demons, even.
Luckily, Mirchi Nagar has a hero—the new cop in town. He fights like a lion. Roars like a lion, too. A punch here, a kick there. Totally unafraid. All of this despite being just seven. His name is Little Singham.
The brainchild of television broadcaster Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, Little Singham is one of the few Indian cartoon characters that has taken the children’s animation market by storm. And it did so in just two months.
Based on the popular Hindi movie Singham, the show launched in April 2018. As of the first week of June, the ratings for the channel were up 300% from what they were at the start of the year. The number of subscribers on Discovery’s YouTube channel, which airs short clips of the show, has increased from 20,000 to 1,14,000 in the same time span. “Little Singham had a borrowing from Bollywood. The vision was to create a heroic character that kids can look up to. And it worked,” says Karan Bajaj, senior vice-president and general manager at Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, a division of the US-based Discovery Communications.
The popularity of Little Singham is good news for Discovery, of course. But it’s also a shot in the arm for the entire kids’ animation industry which is trying to emerge from a decades-long rut. Traditionally, kids’ animation in India has been dominated by foreign (dubbed) content—Duck Tales, Mickey Mouse, Flintstones, etc. Meanwhile, Indian content barely makes it to television, effectively restricting the growth of the local animation industry.
Things are changing, though. As Little Singham shows, media companies now want to invest more in local kids’ content. Over the last 12-18 months, the Indian kids’ content segment has seen some new entrants, the most prominent being video streaming platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix and even AltBalaji. Among traditional broadcasters, Sony Pictures Networks has joined the party, launching a dedicated kids’ TV channel in April 2017. Even the Indian government is trying to get a piece of the pie.
With so many players chasing the two to 14-year-old demographic, the rules of kids’ entertainment are being rewritten. But the way forward is far from simple. Creating original animated content is expensive, time-consuming and labour-intensive. And there’s no guarantee of success. So, is this wave of desi animated offerings one that will sustain? Or will it peter out in the face of challenges and competition?
Go Local or Go Home
Little Singham has an interesting backstory.