What happens when a bunch of fans of Bollywood from different parts of the world; toy collectors,
digital designers, artists and storytellers come together through the power of Internet.
They reminisce about the good old days, childhood memories and their toy collection and invariably talk about Bollywood or Cricket or Food followed by the inevitable discussion about the lack of action figures and other cool toys representing iconic Indian characters. One such passionate discussion led to a few of them creating a startup called Pocket Box Office. (PBO)
PBO is an Avatar Company who brings iconic characters to life through AI driven storytelling in the form of AI Celebrity Avatars, Stylized Action Figures and smART Pop Toys. PBO's first flagship character ijoo, is an adorable reflection of mankind, tells immersive stories dressed as movie characters, celebrities, deities, athletes, kings and queens, comic book and real heroes.
While reaching out to the entertainment industry found a lot of the studios willing to support. It was a pleasant surprise for the founders when Mukta Arts, known to have created some of the most iconic characters under the leadership of Mr Subhash Ghai, were the first Licensors who gave this effort a green signal almost immediately. They understood the value this could bring not just to the entertainment industry but create a robust ancillary revenue stream for Indian IPs in its entirety and help create a robust merchandising and licensing industry focused on nostalgic and forthcoming characters and came forward to support this young startup.
Mr Subhash Ghai, known to be the showman of Indian cinema from the 70s, said "I have always believed that character is the key and I am thankful that some of my characters are still talked about with such fondness. I am happy to support any kind of innovation that helps take our industry forward especially if it comes from fans of our cinema. This is good news for studios and filmmakers alike as it will push the next generation of storytellers to create strong characters which can lend itself to live a life of its own outside that one film."
Mr Rahul Puri, MD of Mukta arts said, "When we were approached, I was quite happy because I feel this kind of an enterprise is long overdue. The good thing about it is that there is an attempt to develop a standardized monetization model for iconic nostalgic characters which will then help the forthcoming films. I am looking forward to seeing my idols on my desk, in the same way am sure the kids of 70s, 80s and 90s would love to see their icons on their shelf alongside the Supermans, Spidermans and Deadpools of the world. I have noticed a growing interest from the younger generation to revisit classics with remixes, spoofs and memes. I think they deserve to showcase their culture worldwide and what best way to show them through these cute pop toy collectibles."
Shailja Gupta, Founder and CEO of PBO, talks fondly about her first memory of, what now can only be described as a DIY merchandise. She said, "When I was 9 years old, the movie 'Coolie' had just released, I received a lavish gift, a dual sided pencil box with an inbuilt sharpener, 4 different sections and the works, filled with Disney characters; instead of rejoicing, I cut out Mr Bachchan's images from various magazines and pasted it all over the gift and proudly carried it to school the very next day." As an admirer, critique and a heavy user of Bollywood, this bug grew bigger and more elaborate with each crazy memorabilia of a foreign film. The artist , dreamer and the entrepreneur kept going at it since the last eighteen years hoping to finally bring this to reality, hoping that all kids and adults can proudly decorate their personal space with their favorite desi alter ego, nemesis or hero with our very own ijoo."
Shailja continued, "From then to now, the Action figure collectibles market in India has been primarily dominated by the four giants DC, Marvel, Disney and Pixar with a few exceptions. The thought of entering this market alongside these giants can be quite daunting but for the support of Bollywood fandom. They have been extremely complementary and contributory. Besides with the support of the movie studios and access to our rich legacy content we are confident of weaving Tomorrow's Technology into Yesterday's Stories of our icons through the creation of emotionally intelligent digital humans using Artificial Intelligence, VR, AR and Blockchain we would
Co-Founder and Co-CEO of PBO, Upen Desai said, "With advent of the dangers of fake video and AI era, we aim to create a new form of entertainment by combining interactive action figures with AI personalities of celebrities and famous character. We are building the next evolution of entertainment which we believe will be AI-driven experiences and content called SapnaMachine, our proprietary technology that creates AI personalities of celebrities and famous characters. From co-branded content to fan engagement to movie promotion, interactive toys is the future. What better way to start that with Bollywood." Talking about the uphill task of trying to create a whole category of rights without any minimum guarantee, he continued "For all of us, this is more than a business and we are quite thankful to the Indian Entertainment Industry for opening their libraries to us"
As a kid my first iconic experience was Mr. Bachchan in Film Yaarana, with his iconic light suite in the song "Saara Zamaana", as an adult I always wondered why couldn't we have a small Action Figure of him on my desk along side the American superheroes. When Shailja approached me to join hands and bring into play this unexampled endeavor, all those sweet desires and memories came back and the only answer to that was a big fat YES!
While PBO makes its way through the entertainment industry, they have received overwhelming response from the fans that are sending their favorite characters to be ijooed. To this effect, they have created a quirky campaign where fans appeal to the licensors by designing ijoo posters of their famous characters and heroes hoping that seeing the demand the industry will this undertaking their vote of confidence.
To affirm both Shailja & Upen said "We are especially grateful to Mukta Arts for paving the way and giving us a chance at creating something new that we all hope the fandom, licensors, distributors and the market will embrace"