In conversation with Rajiv Chilaka, the creator of Chhota Bheem on how the animated character of Chhota Bheem created in Hyderabad won hearts all the way to Hollywood.
Rajiv Chilaka, the creator of Chhota Bheem talks to Firstpost on the success of Bheem and the success of the series on Netflix. Mighty Little Bheem focuses on several aspects of India’s rich cultural history, such as oral traditions, traditional performing arts, social behaviours, rituals, celebratory events, and knowledge and practices regarding nature. The universal truth of unconditional love of a mother for her son is depicted in the series which has a strong message that needs to reach every kid worldwide.
Excerpts from the interview:
Bheem is one of the most loved animated characters. The series on Netflix has become a huge success globally, how do you feel?
I am really excited that the series was viewed by so many people around the world and was able to instill some Indian cultural values. India has a rich tradition of storytelling, and there are many memorable characters. We wanted kids all across the world to see themselves, their family relationships, and their culture represented in the shows they watch. And it was a smashing success. And with each new episode that is released, we continue to receive positive feedback, which gives me a sense of serenity and satisfaction that I am able to contribute in some small way to the young Indians.
Did you expect Bheem to become so loved and popular among the kids?
Yes, I was sure about it because the idea that I had in mind and wanted to deliver was very relatable. Talking from my personal experience, a decade back my son on his first birthday celebration was weeping nonstop and refused to be photographed, however when the cameraman placed a Parrot beside him, he became intrigued and pleased simply by staring at the bird. At that time, I thought how fantastic it would be to convey that narrative to a pre-school audience if Bheem was a baby.
When you conceptualised Bheem, how did you think it to be different from the others?
People wish to learn about different cultures. We have discovered that the audience values genuineness. Mighty Little Bheem is a great example of how eager people are to learn about Indian culture. It’s really Indian, with rural surroundings, local folks, and adventures. The series’ nonverbal nature was intended to make it more global while maintaining faithful to Indian locations and characters, since there is enormous promise in nonverbal storytelling, both in preschool and beyond. Mighty Little Bheem focuses on several aspects of India’s rich cultural history, such as oral traditions, traditional performing arts, social behaviours, rituals, celebratory events, and knowledge and practises regarding nature. The universal truth of unconditional love of a mother for her son is depicted in the series which has a strong message that needs to reach every kid worldwide. A child is never taught to love nature and animals but automatically the kid is drawn close as one develops deep affection for nature and animals around us. The ‘ladoos’, an Indian speciality that is a favourite of every Indian youngster. Popped by the character exhibits strength in combating thugs.
The ‘friendship’ portrayed between the characters teaches children the value of connecting. This is a plain lesson to children about the significance of friendship throughout life. The main theme is that “good prevails over evil,” which the youngsters have been taught. Finally, the majority of Mighty Little Bheem tales are morally focused. All of this contributes to the program’s status as a good source of education and enjoyment for children and families.
Why is it important to create awareness for mythological characters?
It is critical to raise awareness of India’s rich cultural legacy among younger audiences, and animation is possibly the most appealing and engaging way to do so. Chhota Bheem is India’s infant face and Mighty Little Bheem is the toddler version of it. The series shows a universal truth: the unconditional love of a mother and son which is fostered in every young Indian. Furthermore, every child is drawn to nature and animals and is never taught. The ‘Ladoos’-an Indian specialty that is a favourite of every Indian child. Popped by the character demonstrates power in fighting thugs. The ‘friendship’ shown between the characters teaches youngsters the importance of bonding. This is a straightforward message to the youngsters about the importance of friendship in life. The primary point is that “good triumphs over evil”—a well-taught lesson to the children.Finally, the majority of the stories written for Mighty Little Bheem are morally based. Along with the amusement and enjoyment, there is a significant moral lesson communicated. All of this makes the program an excellent vehicle of information and entertainment for children and families.
Tell us about your partnership with Netflix and how it has helped in reaching the kids globally?
Though Chhota Bheem debuted in 2008 and went on to become India’s most popular IP, with a TV program, movie, and merchandising, it was never sold outside of India. In 2016, when Netflix had just begun streaming in India, we decided that Green Gold Animation could animate Mighty Little Bheem, Chhota Bheem’s preschool spin-off, and that it should be produced by both Netflix and Green Gold Animation. The show’s creative creation began in July 2017, and it was in production for almost 18 months, with teams from Green Gold in Hyderabad and Mumbai working on it. Since its premiere in April 2019, Mighty Little Bheem has been seen by millions of people worldwide.
I’ve always known that collaborating with Netflix would be a huge victory since Netflix’s purpose has always been to delight the globe via the power of narrative. The service recognised that India had a treasure mine of excellent stories ready to be told, with the country’s rich cultural heritage acting as a common thread. In 2021, Netflix and UNESCO came together to celebrate India’s rich cultural heritage through Mighty Little Bheem and a series of fun short videos themed ‘One Country, Incredible Diversity’ which highlighted India’s cultural journey, including monuments, living heritage, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festivals. Mighty Little Bheem being non-verbal gets easier for any audience watching to understand. As a result, it has become one of the world’s most popular pre-school animated series.