Shanti The Queen of Jalpur (voiced by Freida Pinto) has appointed bright, observant 12-year-old Mira (voiced by 16-year-old Leela Ladnier) as her official Royal Detective. Now Mira is on the case to solve all the court mysteries and the issues plaguing her friends, family and neighbours in the new Disney Junior (DStv 309) animated series Mira: Royal Detective. It’s a tough job but Mira is smart, has a sharp eye for detail, and she has “help” in the form of her 2 keen mongoose friends, Mikku (Kal Penn) and Chikku (Utkarsh Ambudkar, Mira’s little brother Rishi in The Mindy Project), along with a host of friends.
The delightfully colourful mystery adventure series is targeted at children aged 2-7. While they explore the clues to Mira’s cases with her, they will be learning so much more. The intensely researched series is packed with detail about Indian culture, customs and celebrations.
Jalpur is a fictional Indian city with architecture influenced by the Northern Indian state of Rajasthan. “It’s a port city because we wanted to be able to reflect all of India,” adds series executive producer Sascha Palladino. “I see kids TV as an opportunity to expose kids to both new things and familiar things. For South Asian kids (like South Africa’s Indian community), for example, it’s meaningful because they’re seeing themselves represented on TV, sometimes for the first time, which is a big deal. And then for non-South Asian kids, it’s equally meaningful because they might never have been exposed to South Asian culture before. And we have this opportunity to show them things that are beautiful and unique and wonderful.”
A detective's eye for detail
“Our cultural consultants are important for every step of the process, from writing to design, to storyboarding, to music, to choreography,” says Sascha. “That was the most important. We wanted at all levels of the show to make sure it was authentic. The visuals, the clothing, the music, the dance. That was our guiding principle. A big part of my job was to listen and make sure that we had as many South Asian voices on the show as possible. I could be a proxy for that audience member who was not South Asian, and think about how we can make sure that it is accessible to everyone without watering it down.”
“We worked with an amazing person named Shago [Shagorika Ghosh Perkins, the series’ cultural consultant and consulting producer], who looks at every single one of our scripts and all of our designs and gives us feedback. She’ll tell us things like, ‘Samosas wouldn’t be eaten at that particular meal, for whatever reason. Or this type of outfit isn’t quite right for that type of event. She’ll give suggestions like, ‘You could incorporate this type of greeting here.’ We make sure that that is part of the process,” says Sascha.
Shagorika Ghosh Perkins adds, “My role here is giving feedback all the way from storylines and scripts, to set designs and costumes. I advise them on sets like the buildings, the architecture, the different kinds of costumes that people wear.” For example, a character from the Punjab would be wearing long shirts with loose trousers, while someone from central India would wear a Sari. It’s a detail that goes all the way through to the characters’ surnames, with a couple of characters hailing from North-east India carrying the surname Chaudry. Shagorika even keeps watch over the cast’s accents. She has been part of the team since day 1 and helped to design Jalpur. “There’s a beautiful palace in Udaipur called the Lake Palace, and the palace for this fictional kingdom of Jalpur is based off of that. So we looked at the architecture and material and everything started from there,” she reveals.