“We have always broken the mould”: Nickelodeon’s Anu Sikka on venturing in the sci-fi and mytho space with their new IPs ‘Abhimanyu Ki Alien Family’ and ‘Kanha – Morpankh Samrat’

Nickelodeon launches 2 new IPs

On 18 April, Nickelodeon announced its venture into two new genres with its IPs Abhimanyu Ki Alien Family (sci-fi) and Kanha – Morpankh Samrat (mythology). These two shows make Nickelodeon’s homegrown IP bank to total up to 13 shows, a huge feat for the Indian kids’ broadcast market.

The channel launched Abhimanyu Ki Alien Family with a couple of videos, including a music video by Gulzar. The video showcases the show’s storyline by sharing a glimpse on how aliens come to the Earth to research about humans and for that have to themselves take human forms to understand interpersonal relationships on the planet.

Anu Sikka

While the kids segment is populated with slice of life, drama, action and slapstick comedy genres, is the concept of aliens an experiment, or a calculated risk? Viacom18 kids TV network head – creative, content & research Anu Sikka told AnimationXpress, “We have observed that movies with aliens and ghosts do very well among kids. Kids are excited about and drawn to them. That’s where you draw your inspiration from.” Sci-fi comedy is a genre that Nickeodeon India has not ventured in before, so they decided to tap into it. Previously, the network has brought to kids Pinaki & Happy – The Bhoot Bandhus, a show about a family of ghosts raising a human child.

While Nickelodeon may not be the first Indian channel to come up with a show on robots and aliens (ETV Bal Bharat has Chotu Lambu and Robu), it surely knows how to attract a kid’s attention and make it a popular IP.

Kolkata’s Hi-Tech Animation has executed the 3D animated series. On working with the studio, Sikka shared, “The team at Nick and the technical team at Hi-Tech have usually been on the same page and once you are on the same page, things move smoothly. They not only are able to capture everything that’s a part of the script, but they also bring something of their own in terms of the direction and everything else. So, overall the experience has been very positive.” She believes that a successful show is possible only when the editorial team and the team that executes the project are “in total sync” and “understand each other.” The studio has previously executed Bhoot Bandhus and Shiva (among others) for Nickelodeon.

As for its other homegrown IP – Kanha – Morpankh Samrat, it will chronicle the adventures of young Krishna (who also goes by the name “Kanha”) and his famous tales. One would think that children have reached a saturation point when it comes to mythology and characters from folklore. Nick, however, sees it differently. 

Nina Elavia Jaipuria

“As Kanha has not been on air for a long time, it is safe to say that the current set of kids actually haven’t experienced Kanha as a subject. For them, it’s another evergreen story that they haven’t heard about before,” said Viacom18 Hindi mass entertainment and kids TV network head Nina Elavia Jaipuria. This upcoming show will tell stories of the adolescent Krishna in a fully mythological setting. Sikka was of the opinion that since a lot of children are not reading books, shows like Kanha not just entertain but also keep these stories alive.

Indian mythology is vast. So why stick to the same trope and characters, and not explore others? “Kanha,” Jaipuria said, is an “evergreen character” and their show is created in a “format that has been written differently and shown beautifully.” Sikka added, “There’s a reason why these stories have survived for centuries. Phrases like maakhanchor (someone who steals butter) for Lord Krishna are used because he is maakhanchor. He’s known for it. That is what makes him so endearing to everybody across generations.”

The 2D animated show – produced by Cosmos Maya – showcases Lord Krishna’s journey as a son, warrior, hero, friend, and brings to life his playful and mischievous antics. The animation studio is known for working on Nickelodeon’s most popular show Motu Patlu.

While Nickelodeon has the highest homegrown IPs under its belt, unfortunately none of them have a female protagonist. Addressing it, Sikka said that in the past, they had experimented with shows that had female leads to see if there was a demand from the audience for these shows. “Unfortunately, it did not give us the result that we were hoping for,” she revealed. “But at the same time, we believe that trends do keep changing and if not today, tomorrow there will be a demand. And whenever there is a demand, we will create it.”

Nickelodeon – with its four channels Nick, Nick Jr, Sonic and Nick HD+ – has brought a variety of shows with relatable concepts for children. “The intention is to do something which has not been done before,” Sikka stated. “It’s very easy to follow a successful formula and say – ‘Oh, this is an easy route. Let’s do this.’ [But] we have always pushed the envelope and that is what has given us the success. So whether it’s the storyline, the concept, the characters, or the designing of the characters, we have always broken the mould.”

Sikka pointed out that children are smart, and they understand when they are being shown the same type of shows. With multiple platforms, children have a multitude of options to choose from. “You have to be a clutter-breaker today. It’s an extremely cluttered and crowded market,” she highlighted. “So we need to make sure that we continue to entertain the kids with our stories, and not just stories but even in terms of the quality of animation that we offer to them.” And one can consider that the secret sauce to remaining at the top of the kids’ network.

Abhimanyu Ki Alien Family started airing on Nickelodeon from 24 April, from Monday to Friday at 12 pm. Kanha – Morpankh Samrat will start airing on Sonic towards the end of May.