Why don’t we see female protagonists in Indian kids’ animated shows?

The kids genre in India is growing with giant strides, taking pace from 2018, that witnessed an upward spurt in viewership in the kid’s category with the animated IP rush. Big names in the business like Green Gold Animation, Sony YAY!, Discovery Kids, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and others have already made a mark with their slate of IPs and interesting lineup of shows. The channels focused on children as audience, observing their growing influence on choices, preferences and consumption habits. Fresh debuts for children in the competitive space of TV shows, have actually helped in growing the audience which indicates that more children are opting to watch new programming. 2018 saw a plethora of debuts, such as characters like- Little Singham, KickO, Rudra, Kisna, Guru and Bhole and many others, besides the ongoing game changers- Chhota Bheem, Motu Patlu and so on. But what caught our attention is that, though there are strong female characters in these shows, like Chutki, Pinky, Suparna and others, there’s not a single female protagonist in animated shows created for kids. Empowerment of women has been the talk of the town for some years now. Women in different sectors are breaking stereotypes, making their presence felt and voices heard in the otherwise male dominated industries. The knowledge of gender equality/equity is best imbibed in children right from their childhood, and shows crafted for them are one of the best ways to do that.
Uttam Pal Singh
Recently, AnimationXpress asked a couple of noted names from the industry about why there are no female leads in the shows made for children. We got mixed views, as one stressed on the business aspect while the other exclaimed that the time has arrived to focus on creating shows specifically for the female/girl viewers. Discovery Kids head Uttam Pal Singh said at The Content Hub 2019, “It’s not that we are not creating female characters. There are strong female characters like Inspector Kavya, Babli in Little Singham too. But, we have to keep in mind what the kids are watching or want to watch these days. The business is like this, and we have to be aware of it. The audience ratio is 60 per cent boys and 40 per cent girls. We have to cater to that; if it’s male led and female inclusive shows, then we have to provide it. I understand it’s an art form, but we can’t ignore the business aspect of these shows.” Green Gold Animation founder and CEO Rajiv Chilaka on the other hand, has different views on this. According to him it’s time for the Indian market to embrace and encourage female centric and female led animated shows for all young ages alike. He mentioned, “I think the time has come. We have been pitching to the channels for the last decade, but somehow they weren’t ready. They felt that the market was not ready to accept it. But we are actually working on a female centric show. Two of them actually. We’re working on the pilot, and hopefully we will see a 2020 release. The dynamics are changing between boy and girl audience. Today we have scope for creating a lot of content for and around girls. And with OTT platforms, it’s even easier. Earlier it was the channels running animated kids shows leading to who was controlling the remotes, but now, days are changing and we have prospects to explore and experiment. Earlier it was 60 per cent [boys] and 40 per cent [girls], now more than 55 per cent of the audience are girls. Moreover, nobody has done any such show earlier so the hunger is more to do it.”
Rajiv Chilaka
The times are changing, so are the women and even the society we live in (well more or less). Given the recent scenario when gender equality and women empowerment hold a lot of importance, we must look into the subtleties and nuances of gender dynamics. We must consider that sex is biological and gender is social, and that any kind/form of strength (physical and verbal) or power is beyond any sex or gender. Equality is not something tangible, but it’s approached in terms of cerebral capabilities (not just physical capabilities) and how we uphold it. As children/kids are the future generation who are going to shape the world and how we see it, in the coming days; it’s our responsibility to empower them with positive thoughts, broader mind and the power to analyse any situation being gender neutral.  Since the medium of entertainment can play a vital role in triggering the sentiment, we are sure that broadcasters and animation studios will set up a slate of amazing and diverse characters for the coming generation.  So, as the world celebrates International Women’s Day today, let’s celebrate them as they are.  Keep heads up, ladies! Your time is here!
Inspector Kavya sketch from ‘Little Singham’