Anirban Majumder with the superhero he has directed for the big screen release Mighty Raju Rio Calling
The man who nursed Chhota Bheem from birth has now brought Mighty Raju to the big screen.
North Calcutta boy Anirban Majumder, a key member of Team Chhota Bheem, the most popular animation series on Indian television, has turned director for another film from the same studio called Mighty Raju Rio Calling which is giving viewers a feel of soccer and samba in the Brazilian capital, ahead of the World Cup.
“The setting for all Indian animation heroes so far, be it Hanuman, Krishna or Chhota Bheem, has been rural and the storyline has mythological moorings. Mighty Raju was born out of our wish to create an urban hero,” says Majumder.
Thus in 2012 was born on Pogo a bald four-year-old who had drunk a drop of his scientist-father’s invention by accident while in his mother’s womb. “Raju was originally a character in Chhota Bheem but for this series we put him in a contemporary setting.”
For Mighty Raju Rio Calling, the But the 33-year-old shares the director’s role with Rajiv Chilaka, the founder of Green Gold Animation who had hired him eight years ago. “I used to work on the storyboard of Thakumar Jhuli for Alpha Bangla in 2005. Then I signed up for a course at Toonz Webel Academy from where I was recruited.”
His first project on reaching Hyderabad from Vivekananda Road in 2006 was Krishna: The Birth, a telefilm for Cartoon Network. Three more Krishna telefilms later, he started work on Chhota Bheem for Pogo, Cartoon Network’s sister channel.
Majumder, who left Green Gold briefly to work with UTV Motion Pictures in Mumbai for an animation film which never released, returned in 2009 as pre-production head. It was the start of boom time for Bheem. “Our first Chhota Bheem telefilm Krishna in Dholakpur notched up record viewership ratings.” Around this time, he also designed the villain Kirmada, who became a huge hit.
Majumder’s big screen experience helped when the channel decided to take Bheem to the theatres, first with The Curse of Damyaan in 2012 and then with The Throne of Bali the year after. “It was possibly the first time in India that a recce was done abroad for an animation film.”
But the trip to Rio, he thinks, was an even bigger gamble. “Chhota Bheem was an established character. But for Raju, we had to work really hard.” A team of 20 artistes flew to Brazil to study the city.
In course of saving the Rio government from the machinations of the evil Karati, Raju learns to play football and scores a decisive goal in the final via a bicycle kick.
Majumder takes a lot of pride in the fact that Indian heroes are ruling the screen after decades of dominance by Disney characters like Tom & Jerry, followed in recent years by the Japanese Shin Chan, Doraemon and Hagemaru. A survey done by Cartoon Network in 2012 had revealed Chhota Bheem to be the favourite with 73 per cent kids voting for him.
Many of the kids who flocked to the premiere of the film presented by Telekids and City Centre last Thursday voted for Raju over Bheem. “Raju, being an urban schoolkid, is easier to relate to for kids than Bheem who stays in a rural cottage, wears dhoti and eats laddoo. It took Bheem three years to hit bullseye as we were also inexperienced. With this film, Raju has taken his first step within a year and half of his birth. Now he will start walking,” says the creator.
For a kid whose skateboard turns into a mini aeroplane at his bidding, make that flying.