Gone are the days when one listened to grandma's tales or read books on Indian mythology. Today's kids enjoy watching their favourite mythological characters on television or by doing a quick browse for them online. Tasneem Rajkotwala, a nine-year old from Gopi Birla Memorial School says, "Yes, I am aware of some of the mythological stories and my favourite Indian character is Krishna. But I prefer watching his animated films over reading about him. The heroic deeds of such characters fascinate me. What I like the most is that every story comes with a moral at the end." Echoing her thoughts is Adit Kapoor, a 10- year-old from Army School, Ahmednagar who says, "I prefer animated movies. The whole transformation from 2D to 3D excites me. It's colourful, fun and interesting."
The movie 'Hanuman' for example has a gigantic fan following. 7-year-old Maniishkaa Patil of Hiranandani School watched the first Hanuman movie when she was five and since then has become quite a follower of the character. She even bought a lot of movie merchandise like the gada, key chains and paperweights.
On the other hand, some youngsters prefer the interactive web-based medium. Rohit Joshi, a 14-year-old from St Joseph's High School says, "I like to browse on the internet as it also allows me to play games and solve puzzles. My other favourite hobby is collecting t-shirts, mugs and pencil boxes of my favourite characters."
So, why are moving visuals more popular among kids? "It grabs attention," explains J Shrutisree, a 13 year-old from Don Bosco Senior Secondary School. She adds, "I watched Hanuman as it attracted my attention. I loved the costumes and settings and could connect to the character easily, unlike reading where one needs to imagine it all." Parents are happy that their kids are learning about Indian mythology through these initiatives. Sarita Kapoor, Adit Kapoor's mother says, "I am happy that this generation of Internet and PSP-following kids are learning about our culture through these movies. Simple things like respecting elders can't be taught, they can only be inculcated. I would like more web-based games and animated movies to be developed on mythological characters."
To keep up with this trend and capture the new audience even Amar Chitra Katha, which is synonymous with Indian storytelling, underwent a change. Rituja Saxena, Brand Manager, Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) says, "Our goal is to expand our reader-base and the best way to do this was to transition into TV, films, games and new media like mobiles that the older age groups consume."
ACK recently launched new facilities for Vodafone customers that allow people to read stories, solve quizzes and download wallpapers of Indian cartoon characters. They have also launched a website that brings together over 700 high quality children's titles in the categories of books, comics, audio and videos.
Leading animation and gaming company DQ Entertainment (DQE) is also in line with their upcoming releases. Sumedha Saraogi of DQE says, "We felt that people are only aware of some iconic mythology-based characters and so we are coming up with three new animated features, 'The Adventure of the Prince of Ayodhya', 'Ravan' and 'Omkar'.
Rohini J of DQE adds, "Our main focus is on characters and their childhood rather than tales. Kids visualise Ravan as a negative character but we are trying to emphasise on the character's childhood in a humorous and fun filled manner?"
With new media serving as the next frontier for mythological cartoon characters, we wonder what else is in store for us.