“With Jambo and ‘Namooney’, we wanted to tap on the unexplored areas of adult animation in India”: Ashwin Suresh

Pocket Aces, popular India digital entertainment company recently forayed into animation with the launch of Jambo – a desi-animation channel for young adults. Rejecting the idea that animation is only meant for children, Jambo has created a library of snackable animated videos which resonates with young adult audiences mainly targeted to the Hindi speaking belt across Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh. The channel released India’s first desi-animated comedy web-series, Namooney, on YouTube from mid May 2020. AnimationXpress spoke to Pocket Aces founder Ashwin Suresh who revealed the reason behind venturing into animation and future plans for Jambo and Namooney. Here are the excerpts:   > What were the thoughts behind coming up with Jambo? It was a combination of factors. The most important thing was understanding about the current and future trends, about the kind of local content audiences prefer. So we studied the YouTube trends and we understood that one of the fastest and largest growing categories on YouTube is animation. Animation in India largely caters to children, but there are a lot of young adults and adults who also admire and enjoy animation but have very less good animated content to fall back on and enjoy. So we observed there’s a domain that’s still unexplored and under served in India. Thus, we thought to touch upon the factors and thought of creating animated content for adults and that’s how Jambo was born, as a result of a calculated effort.
Ashwin Suresh
> What inspired you to create an adult animated web series, Namooney after that for the channel? In urban India you’ll find enough people who are consuming adult animated content like BoJack Horseman, F for family, Simpsons, Undone and several others. But in India, these numbers are very less. In smaller towns of India people are consuming 2D animated channels and we realised that this is a very underserved category and we should tap on it.  We began with a small in-house team and started creating content which we could distribute across digital platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. We learnt a lot about the short-form content space from the videos we create for Filtercopy or Dice Media. And channelised those learnings for Jambo and noticed that few content on college students, friends, hostel mates and others are quite popular on Jambo. So we intended to make a show that is very relatable, and targets a specific Hindi-speaking belt in India because those areas we feel are still unexplored as far as animation is concerned and are not served enough. The goal was to find some commonality between those states and as well as the urban audience. We tried to find a common ground for their cultures, characters and situations. Hence, we created Namooney.   > Can you tell us about the team that worked on Namooney, if it was done in-house or commissioned to some studio? The animation for Namooney is a combination of in-house and outsourced for Pocket Aces. We have a team of content writers, storyboard artists, animators, designers, motion graphics people and more in-house. As the pandemic hit us hard and the lockdown followed, we realised that animation is a genre that we can continue to keep creating unlike live-action. So we decided to expand the volume of content for Jambo. Our short form content volume thus went up from three/four to almost 12.  Namooney was initially thought to be done entirely in-house. But later, we decided to commission into Prayan Animation Studio in Kerala. We did all the animatics, storyboard, characterisation, background drawings, conceptualisation and everything in house and the animation per say was outsourced. So we gave everything, and told them to animate. All other content on Jambo except Namooney are completely done in-house by a team of 10 people. For the in-house team, we have Abhinav Krishna (direction), Bhaskar Sivakumar (pre-production), Mayur Khadse (animator), Shreya Vatsa (background design), Shruti Jalgaonkar (animator), Kush Boradia (animator), Monik Chaudhry (channel manager) and Kaiarsh Saher (Operations – associate manager) . The writers are Balram Vishwakarma, Dhaawal Shivhare and Jitesh Vasani. 
> How has Namooney fared since launch? What are your future plans with it? Namooney has done really well for us, and Jambo. Initially, we were not sure about the audience reception and acceptance but after a few months, we realised that there is an audience for it. When he launched this show on YouTube, we had only 100 subscribers. Now we have 10K+ subscribers for Jambo and the entire credit goes to Namooney. In fact, the 10th or finale episode of season one, had 49K+ views alone. The team is planning to launch the second season very soon, in a couple of months which will be set in Goa and will pick up from where the first season had left. We are learning a lot about our consumers, about students and their tastes and we are trying to cater to all of it. We’re getting a lot of feedback on Namooney, and we are trying to imbibe if not all, most of it into our upcoming content slate including Namooney The title character Ankit is already very popular and people want to see more of him and about his life, so we are planning a long form content around it also due to audience demand. So all the analysis and all the betterments are being figured out right now. We’re working upon all of it because we plan to make the character of Ankit even better and more relatable to the audience.
> Did Namooney or Jambo attract advertisers? For season one, the Pocket Aces/Jambo team didn’t go for advertising but might consider it for the upcoming season as the genre is garnering more attention every passing day. > What are your other upcoming projects? We are also planning on our next shows as we have planned to make four animated web series in 2020. We are figuring out the characters, on the story, plot lines, and more. We have calculated the grammar for short form content – from the backgrounds, to the story, to the characterisation, and the plots about how we will develop a character or the show that is around it. We haven’t zeroed down on anything yet. > What do you think of animation as a medium or industry in India? Animation is a very affordable and convenient medium for creators and producers especially in such tough times. The technical product is also at par with international standards nowadays. The grammar for short form or long form animated content is different than that of live-action. What we need to focus on is the art of storytelling through animation and we will reach the right spot. Indian animation has a bright future ahead and we are happy to be contributing to it.