It all started with his daughter. Gautam Talwar and his wife Priyanka observed that their daughter and her friends were drawn to and getting influenced by international content. Most parents in urban areas wouldn’t mind their children preferring shows that are not Indian, but Talwar was of another mind.
He was not quite pleased with the idea of children getting influenced by western culture. This served enough motivation for him to start a YouTube channel that is a reflection of the Indian culture – Jalebi Street. “A very real gap existed, for a show that was slice-of-life for Indian kids everywhere, combining aspects of Indian traditions and culture with their contemporary lives,” Talwar highlighted.
The channel which is only a month old, has episodes like Stretchy Yoga, Happy Holi, SaReGaMaPa and Salaam Namaste, which take elements from Indian culture and explain them through the animated characters in a way that children can understand. Talwar wants children to feel pride in the Indian culture. Expressing his concern, he said, “We have a fantastic wealth of diverse traditions and culture, which are slowly getting lost with the next generation.” He wishes to make Indian food, clothes and rituals aspirational to the Indian kids. “Through Jalebi Street, we want kids to actively feel joy and a deep connection with their roots and cultural diversity.”
Talwar is of the belief that it is important to appreciate all cultures but not at the expense of your own. “Unfortunately, there is limited content that makes our own culture exciting for kids.” Giving examples of goblins from the west and ninjas from the east, he stated that India has a lot to offer but “have not even begun to scratch the surface.” Jalebi Street is his attempt to introduce kids to Indian culture at an age when they are forming their personality. “The first seven years of a child are extremely crucial for forming its belief structures and it’s important for them to get exposed to their culture in a fun way,” he added.
The concept, characterisation, writing and storytelling have been done by Talwar and his wife. Diya Mirchandani and Aditi Sodhi, both business women and mothers themselves are the executive producers. Animation has been led by Think Why Not, headed by Sangram Surve and supported by Vikrant Shitole and Akshay Panchal. The look of the show and characters has been developed by Yogesh Mahajan. The music and background has been scored by Reenam Jain and Abhijit Hegde Patil, while voice direction and casting has been done by Eliza Lewis and Greta Lewis. The voice-cast includes Prachi Saathi (Minnie Mouse, Krishna aur Kans, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh) for Bubble, Pooja Punjabi (Rapunzel, Smurfs 2, Hunger Games) for Naaz and Bunny, and Sonal Kaushal (Go Diego Go, Doraemon, Doc McStuffins) for Div.
Like in any good story, Talwar’s story characters are also inspired from real-life people and their quirks. Talking about the traits of his characters, Talwar said that the little girl Bubble is a natural leader and a typical chatty kid; Maddy is the intellectual one or ‘gyaani’ (knowledgeable); Naaz is a sporty, active kid; while Div is the girly-girl, all bows and frills. Bunny is the foodie as well as the brawn of the group. Krish is that kid we all know who asks a million questions, while Harley represents all the car-crazy boys. “We all know kids who are like each of these personalities and we have carried that diversity to the parent characters as well.” The parents of Jalebi Street either work, or are home-makers, entrepreneurs, musicians or have a corporate job.
According to Talwar, the biggest challenge for kids’ content creators is to understand the mind of the toddlers. Testing the product at every stage, Jalebi Street’s team did storytelling sessions to tweak the screenplays, formed focus groups for animatics and animation, and watched the responses and reactions of children. Gautam comes with 17 years of experience in advertising and film while Priyanka is a psychotherapist and an author on parenting. Since both of them had no direct experience with animation, it was a steep learning curve for them. “But thankfully, we have an outstanding team of talented people working with us, both visually and with sound and music,” he exclaimed.
He is grateful for the encouraging response that the channel has received. They have received messages from parents around the world whose kids have demanded more from Jalebi Street.
When asked what message he would like to give to the readers, Talwar said, “As parents, we would want to reach out to all other parents, ask them to be proactive and make that extra effort to keep our roots and culture alive. There is magic in India, so feel it and encourage your kids to know it. And of course, go watch Jalebi Street.”
It is the age where west-based shows are “cool” and the traditions are considered orthodox; everyone is caught-up in a fast-paced life and children are left to learn on their own. At a time when the hold of culture is seemingly getting loose, Jalebi Street is a brave attempt of infusing kids with the rich heritage of our land, in a delightful manner!