"I want to do an Indian South Park" - Cell 18 CEO

By Money Sharma & Mrigank Dhaniwala, Bollywood Hungama News Network

Cell 18, the creative production house of the Network 18 conglomerate, was carved out in 2008 to do business outside the network. One year later, the post house has a dream clientele ranging from JWT, Nokia, Airtel. Godrej, Lowe, Catwheel, Reliance Mobile, Zee Cinema and more. Also on the cards is a possible foray into short and long form animation content. Chief Executive Officer, Zubin Driver tells Bollywood Hungama about his ideas of the animation space and more.

What is Cell 18's pedigree?
Cell18 is basically a creative production house. We are into post-production and production of ad films and production of long content. In fact, we've just bagged a Marathi comedy serial with ETV and are in the process of pitching for multiple serials, reality, fiction and non-fiction shows. That's going to be very big (thing) for us in 2009. Besides, we continue to grow in advertising and are also doing well in post-production.

Any plans of a foray into long content animation?
Not this year. But 2010 onwards we might start getting interested. We already have some work in the short form animation content. We are doing animation films, promos and virals which have come to us on a turn-key basis. We have plans to look into IPR animation another two years down the line.

How did you associate with the Golden Cursor Animation Awards?
We always wanted to associate ourselves with a creative award. Plus I am personally interested in animation. It is one of the most fluid forms in which you can work your imagination to the hilt. Besides it's the only medium that gives you complete freedom.

The way I see animation, and we've been observing the animation industry very closely because of Golden Cursor Awards, I really believe the value lies in unlocking popular culture. Finally animation is about storytelling. Right now we are at a very nascent stage in animation, so most people do mythological serials and more of the same old stuff.

We are a country of one billion people who are the greatest storytellers. What we need to do now is to create work based on who we are, what we feel and how we live. That's when you'll start getting a real audience.

Are you also looking at post production of movies?
We are. And hopefully we will work with Studio 18 and Indian Films at some point.

You have plans of expanding operations?
Animation, next year. But we have already started thinking about the whole space. We have concluded that we need to tell our own stories that are uniquely Indian and not worry too much about what is happening globally. We are interested in telling our own stories in a true way and fining a unique form to work with.

But you don't see any Indian content going global, as of now.
That is because we don't concentrate on telling our own stories truly. See, we always work within formulas. For instance, for years Bollywood talked to itself because the formula worked and there was too much money riding on it. Everyone was trying to play out different versions of the formula. The moment you start evolving, you will start telling your own stories and a new formula will emerge. The new stories become a real response to life around you. This is exactly what happened in Hollywood.

Indian animation needs to find its own voice. The big thing is not the money, the machines, or the people but the ideas.

But animation is not attracting enough eyeballs.
If Cell 18 does something, we will get high TRPs because we are not chasing many things. If I get into animation IPR, I will go with one thing that is a winner. I am not interested in getting outsourced jobs, hiring people and becoming a BPO outfit.

I am getting into animation because it excites me. And I want to do an Indian South Park, if I go down that way. I will first analyze the market, will figure a mass connect. South Park is not a mass thing, so if I go in I will find something with a mass connect. When we launch something, it's going to be up there. This is how the Network 18 group works.

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