They were the quintessential bedtime stories, and brought alive the world of Indian mythology, folklore, epics and history. Established in 1967, Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) comic books enticed Indian kids for decades, but somehow, got sidelined in the increasing number of Cinderellas and Snow Whites.
In an attempt to revive the charm of Amar Chitra Katha, ACK Media, in a content partnership with Turner International, has decided to take the ACK stories to the next level, by introducing them as TV shows and films.
The partnership will initially result in two films and a television series, which will be released next year. The first film, called Tripura: The Three Cities of Maya, will be released in the summer of 2010; the second film, Sons of Rama, will be released around Diwali. It is not yet decided if the films will see a theatrical release. The films are being developed under the tutelage of Cartoon Network animation experts.
The Amar Chitra Katha series will premiere on CN and Pogo in early 2010. The series will have 26 episodes of 30 minutes each.
Monica Tata, vice-president and deputy general manager, Entertainment Networks, South Asia, Turner International India, says, "We initially started with dubbed content; and over the years, came up with Indian content. The localisation strategy, which we undertook several years ago, has worked well for us, so far."
The discussions for this venture started a year ago. Samir Patil, chief executive officer, ACK Media says that ACK, which is synonymous with storytelling, will retain its flavour and look. "Taking ACK to television and films was the main thought behind ACK Media. Without tampering with the basic elements of ACK, the 2D animation TV show and films will have a unique look and high quality of story. But the technique of storytelling, which is the best part of ACK, will remain the same, and not resort to verbose," he explains.
In a market where the Western superheroes rule the popularity charts amongst the kids, how will ACK cut through the competition, and at the same time, stand tall in front of international animation? Tata believes that it would be fair to evaluate of the quality of the animation only after the release of the films and the television series. At the same time, she adds that more than the quality of animation, the company is focussing on stories. "More than the quality, it's about the storytelling approach we'll have. Also, the heroes of our new series and films will be the stories, not the characters or anything else."
She adds that though Indian animation might not be ground breaking in quality, but it definitely appeals to the kids. "Whenever we've had Indian content on our channels (both Pogo and CN), the ratings have always gone up," she informs.
Patil says that ACK Media's goal is to be the largest content producer of Indian stories and characters, over the next two to three years.