Ketan Mehta: Trying to revive Captain Vyom as full animation project

Popular late 1990’s Doordarshan show Captain Vyom is on the way to being adapted as a “full animation project”, says director Ketan Mehta.

Mehta conceived and directed the 1998 futuristic sci-fi series, starring Milind Soman in the title role, which went on to become a cult classic. The special effects for the show were created by the erstwhile Maya Entertainment Ltd, jointly owned by the National Film Development Corporation and Mehta. After a short while, Maya went solo.

“Captain Vyom was the first project that we did basically to educate ourselves and the Indian film industry about the potential of this new technology (of visual effects). We are also trying to revive Captain Vyom as a full animation project,” the filmmaker said.

The story revolved around Captain Vyom (Soman), a super-soldier, who is assigned by the World Government and Vishwapramukh (Tom Alter) to capture the 12 most dangerous criminals of the Universe. Also starring Kartika Rane as Lieutenant Maya, the show enjoyed a 54-episode run on Doordarshan. A comic based on the television series was published by Diamond Comics in English and several other Indian languages.

Maya means an enchanting illusion, and animation and cinema are all about that, Mehta said. The director along with entrepreneur-actor and wife Deepa Sahi founded the animation studio, now known as Cosmos-Maya Studios.

Cosmos-Maya is a Singapore and India-based animation company that produces high-quality 2D and 3D animated content. Hong Kong-based private equity firm NewQuest Capital Partners acquired a controlling stake in Cosmos-Maya in 2021, after the exit of ex-investors Emerald Media with 4X returns on investment.

Sahi, who is also a director at Cosmos-Maya, said the journey of the studio started in 1997 and today they are “India’s largest animation studio”. “We have around 18 programmes running virtually on every TV channel. We have about 1,600 in-house artists and 200 virtual artists, because virtual studios are becoming very important. That is going to grow and grow,” she said.

The couple was speaking on the sidelines of the Media and Entertainment Fortnight at India Pavilion as part of the EXPO2020 Dubai here. The company has produced Motu Patlu, the animated sitcom, which Mehta said is the most popular animated TV show for the last seven-eight years now.

“Vir The Robotboy, which has 7 billion views on YouTube, is one of the most popular shows on the digital platform. Eena Meena Deeka has been sold in over 75 countries,” he said.

Mehta, known for acclaimed films like Mirch Masala, Mangal Pandey – The Rising, and Manjhi: The Mountain Man, said they started the animation studio because they wanted “to take our destiny in our own hands”. “Then the technology that was needed in India was not available easily, so we decided to jump into that. Fortunately for us, the studio has grown and we have been able to do what we wanted to do,” he said.

Sahi, who has also worked in films like Tamas, Mehta’s Hero Hiralal, and Maya Memsaab, said it is important to tell your own stories. “There are 100 easier ways to make money. Making money for people like us, who already come from a privileged background and studied in the best schools and colleges, is easy. But living life on your own terms is more exciting,” she said.

Sahi also rued how the audience tends to know her more as an actor. “I have done five-six movies and everyone calls me an actress. Twenty years of my life I’ve been an entrepreneur and nobody speaks of that.”

Next up for Cosmos-Maya Studios is a full-length feature film for an international market based on Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel Kim, about the original child spy. “The story is based in India and it is for a global audience,” Mehta said.

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