Post the great success of Mary Kom – the biopic about five times female World Boxing Champion and Olympic bronze medalist Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom, ScreenYug Creations Pvt Ltd, a Pune based creative studio has bagged the rights for a television series weaved around the life of this eminent boxer. ScreenYug and Aditya Horizons will jointly produce India’s first female superhero animated television series – Mary Kom Jr. The licensing agreement will entitle Mary Kom to receive money from global sales of the animation series, any merchandise, story books, e-books, games, comics and online distribution in the future. “Mary Kom Jr.” is being produced by Ashish S. Kulkarni and his team, including Vikram Veturi (director), Sudip Banerjee and Aditya Bakshi (concept and story directors), JV Varaprasad (editor and music director), Rajesh Bhosale (line production) and Anand Pandey (production architect). In a candid conversation with Retailer Media during Education Congress 2015 organised by Franchise India, Ashish S. Kulkarni, also Chairman of FICCI for Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comics Forum, shared his intent behind the concept of first female superhero based out of India. Popularly known for Little Krishna, Kulkarni has created many big-ticket projects like Shaktimaan, Krishna Aur Kans and Big Bees among others and now with Mary Kom Jr. The launch holds even more importance in licensing scenario due to the curious case of L&M industry missing out on female superhero centric merchandise after which Marvel introduced four new female characters including lady Thor and Spider woman. Also, DC Entertainment, have teamed up with Mattel to launch a new multi-platform superhero universe aimed at female fans. Agreeing to the dearth of female characters especially in animation industry, Kulkarni believes to make a mark in the male-centric television programming and animation industry with Mary Kom Jr. Kulkarni emphasised that although the story will be based on Mary Kom, with a focus on Manipur, they plan to include other characters as well for universal appeal. What are your plans pertaining to Mary Kom Jr? We are going to create a TV series around the character and then churn out licensing and merchandising programme out of that. The storyline would be fictional with a focus on Manipur, while we will include other characters as well for universal appeal. The character is set in Manipur where Mary Kom is based. So, the design we will use will be very close to that geographical area. In the world of animation, the location is a material because you are creating a world which is very different. Did you face any challenges being a licensee and what will be the revenue sharing model? We didn’t face challenges because the idea was created by us and we wanted Mary Kom’s name to be attached with that. So, it was not all that difficult. It was a royalty based deal so a part of all revenues from global sales of the animation series, or anything related to it will go to Mary Kom. Who all are you in talks with to air the series? We are talking to the kids’ channels right now and in next couple of months, we will be fixing the deal with them. We have planned to air the series in the second half of 2016. What will the L&M programme of Mary Kom Jr be like? We are planning a lot of things around the character. A normal SKU will obviously be there, but we are planning a birthday cake for kids as well. Since Mary Kom is already operating a boxing academy so, we don’t have any plans to come up with a boxing academy. How far do you agree to the fact there is a dearth of female superheroes in the industry? There were female superheroes, but they were not the lead characters. What has happened in the past was that people only looked at the main male characters and the whole television programming and animation is also boy-centric. And that’s why people feel that the kids would want to look at that option. Also, because boys are hooked up with a lot of gaming hence, extension is possible there. But we feel that the gaming opportunity exists with girl characters also; instead of girls watching GEC at that age, if they are able to look up at their own content at that age. Home grown characters like Chhota Bheem, Little Krishna etc are dominating the market. Do you think these characters can be a competition for global superheroes? More the exposure you give to the characters, the better they will do in the market. So, you need to have a threshold of about hundred plus episodes to really make a mark, which is possible with character ideas such as Mary Kom Jr. How do you analyse Indian licensing industry at present? It is evolving at this point of time. Of course, there are challenges like piracy, but the industry is evolving and character licensing in particular has done very well, which is further going to help the industry in a big way.
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