Chulbul for children: How the Dabangg animated series is shaping up
Arbaaz Khan and Anish Mehta talk about adapting the blockbuster franchise for kids
Chulbul Pandey, the swashbuckling cop played by Salman Khan in the Dabangg franchise, is getting an animated makeover. Arbaaz Khan Productions has teamed up with animation studio Cosmos-Maya to bring the Dabangg universe for kids. In addition to Chulbul, who was last seen dusting up goons in 2019’s Dabangg 3, the characters Rajjo, Makkhi, Chhedi Singh, Prajapati Pandey, and others, will also be featured in the series. The multi-part adaptation is in the early stages of development. The first of two planned seasons will have 52-episodes slated for 2021.
“Dabangg’s dramatic personae are so widely appreciated that the audience is craving for more stories on these characters,” Arbaaz shares. “The quicker production time of animation will fill in the gaps between feature films. The medium offers unparalleled creative freedom with storytelling, and we can focus on shorter standalone stories of favorite characters in lieu of longer, linear narratives.”
However, Salman and Arbaaz (who plays Chulbul’s half-brother Makkhi) won’t be voicing their characters. “The animation series is an adaptation,” Arbaaz explains. “Thus, there are a few creative changes audio-visually to make it more befitting for the medium. Strategically, we have decided to not have Salman or the other actors doing the voice-over for their avatars.”
Founded by Ketan Mehta and Deepa Sahi, Cosmos-Maya has studios in Mumbai and Hyderabad. The India and Singapore-based company has created popular shows like Motu Patlu, Vir: The Robot Boy, and Selfie With Bajrangi. In 2018, they created two seasons of the Motu-Patlu spin-off Inspector Chingum (on Amazon Prime), based on superstar Rajinikanth. The Dabangg series is their first adaptation of a major Bollywood franchise.
“We did not want to create the show as a marketing gimmick,” says Anish Mehta, CEO of Cosmos-Maya. “The idea was to take a popular character and reimagine him in the animation space. For instance, the exaggerated comic elements in Dabangg are well suited for kids and family audiences. We have the director of Motu Patlu and our top creative team on this project. Of course, Arbaaz and Salman will be hearing all the stories and guiding us through the development.”
Anish and team have opted for dynamic 2D animation for the series. The reveal poster shows Salman’s supercop avatar punching the earth in style. The format is characterised by low angles and strong, dramatic poses. “If you see the TV adaptations of Hulk, Spider-Man or Superman, they are all dynamic 2D animations. Since Chulbul Pandey is the Indian equivalent of Hollywood superheroes, we wanted to adopt this format. Instead of doing a low-budget 3D animation, we have created a distinct art style for the character.” This will also be reflected in the show's action design. “Think of a shot where Chulbul kicks a villain and the villain shoots up in outer space. We can easily take such liberties which won’t be believable in live-action.”
As with feature films, the lockdown has delayed animation productions across the world. Anish hopes to arrive on broadcast and OTT by April next year. “We managed to be up-and-running at a 70 per cent capacity with work from home. We are planning an exciting marketing campaign for the series around Diwali.”