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September 22, 1999


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The Rediff Business Interview/ Viswanatha Reddy

'Chandamama should replace cartoon networks'

B Viswanatha Reddy has been the editor, publisher and managing director of the Chandamama publications for the last thirty years. He will continue to don all the roles when Chandamama resumes publication in November after a gap of a year.

The publishers are relaunching the magazine through a new company -- Chandamama India Limited -- in which Morgan Stanley, along with three other investors, will hold 60 per cent stake. Reddy says credit for the success of Chandamama should go to his father B Nagi Reddy and Chakrapani who had the vision to start a magazine like this 52 years ago. Shobha Warrier interviewed Reddy recently.

In your thirty years of experience in publishing, did you ever feel that children were moving away from books to television?

Every generation thinks that way. When we outgrow a particular age, our attitude, outlook and understanding change. We think that children are also changing like we do. But children continue to be children. Every child in the world would like to play with a toy. Only the type of toys changed, from wooden toys to stuffed ones, that's all. Technologically, there may be advancements. The presentation also may have changed but the mind of the child remains the same.

One speciality of Chandamama is its read-aloud stories. Basically, it is meant for parents to read out the stories to the children, thus allowing the children to think and imagine.

You talked about the basic principles of Chandamama. What are they?

We all firmly believe that unless there is a strong foundation, no monument can be built. Basic understanding of one's own culture and heritage is absolutely essential. We at Chandamama believe in maintaining the rich heritage of India and passing it on from one generation to another. We want Chandamama to be a link between the past and the future.

So, our medium is the present parent and he or she conveys the story of the rich heritage of India to their children in the form of a story. You can call us entertainers or storytellers.

You said you want to think big now. Please elaborate.

If Chandamama with its 52 years of experience cannot think big, no other magazine can think big. Dailies are different. Weeklies are different. Ours is a totally different slot. We want to see that Chandamama reaches the children not only through the print medium, but through so many other media vehicles. And in the print medium also, we do not want to restrict ourselves to magazine alone. Our presence will be there not only in the field of entertainment but in education too.

Take for instance, Disney. Do you know when Disney started, they wanted to bring the rural folklore to the urban kids of the US? They have not just the animation section, they have their own toys, they have their own publications, they have activity books, they have educational books; Chandamama also has so many such memorable characters but they remained dormant all these years. So, we want all the Chandamama characters to start moving and interacting with people. We would like to use some of our characters to convey what Chandamama was conveying all these years through print medium.

I have noticed that there is an element of violence in every cartoon that you see on television. They are trying to share a kind of sadistic pleasure with children. Many of us like-minded people, who are concerned about the younger generation, will get together now.

Would you launch a cartoon channel?

(Laughs). If we want to do that, we need to have enough funds. Animated films are quite expensive. But my dream is that Chandamama should replace all the other networks. And we will definitely do it. If someone can sponsor a cricket match spending to the extent of the expenditure of the Kargil war, why can't the same company come forward for the betterment of the younger generation?

Are you optimistic about these people coming forward to sponsor such a cause?

After all, people are there to do good things. It all depends on how you approach them. If you are sincere and honest, I am sure you will be able to leave a greater impact on the minds of others. Everybody would like to put his money to better use and gain goodwill also in the bargain for their brand. Nobody is in the business to do charity, they are in the business to promote their brand. If you see the Chandamama of the fifties, you will see the advertisements of Dalda, detergents and many other Hindustan Lever products.

You said you want to enter educational institutions too. Have you any specific plans?

It can be for promoting talents. The other day, there was a news item in The Hindu. A very talented young chess player could not find a sponsor. But if you are a tennis player or a cricketer, there will not be any problem to get a sponsor.

I see a missing link somewhere. Are you not neglecting something called talent and brain? The emphasis is only on glamour. This is where I would like to play an important role. How do we do that? By becoming a link between the two generations; between the teacher and the student, and the parent and the child. All the problems that you face in the world today, and that include the hippie movement of the seventies to AIDS of today, are due to a lack of communication between the parent and the child. We want to link the parent and the child.


Investors resurrect Chandamama the children's magazineInvestors resurrect Chandamama the children's magazine



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