Review of Sheikh Chilli and Friendz (TV movie)

Recently dropped by Doordarshan after outrage

A children’s animated show named Sheikh Chilli and Friendz, that has seen several repeated telecasts on state broadcaster Doordarshan, recently came under fire when a social media user uploaded a clip from an episode that showed saffron-clad Yoga gurus in a poor light.

The clip showed a skull cap-wearing, school-going boy named Sheikh Chilli using a jinn to defeat a Yoga guru (depicted with clear Brahminical looks).

After the clip sparked outrage, a Twitter handle, @gemsofbollywood, posted more clips from that episode.

One of them showed a saffron-clad Yoga guru with the name “Guru Ghantaal” (a Hindi term meaning a big fraud). The guru is later revealed to be an evil witch.

The national child commission took cognisance of the clips and sent a letter to the director of Doordarshan, asking for the show to be removed from the channel as it could “create disparity”.

As per reports, Doordarshan has stopped further telecasts.

The derogatory portrayal of Hindu gurus, however, is not the only problem with the show.

Episode number four of the series shows school-going children lying and using fraud to get a guy begin a romantic relationship with a girl. The animated series has in total 104 episodes of 11 minutes each.

The episode, named Bulbuli se Dosti (friendship with Bulbuli), begins like this: Sheikh Chilli’s pet donkey named Bulkul is stalking a she-donkey and dreaming that he strikes “friendship” with her. When the she-donkey asks why he is stalking her, the he-donkey can’t gather the courage to talk to her. The she-donkey reveals that she is Bulbuli, the only daughter of business tycoon Seth Heeralal. Hearing this, Bulbul faints.

Bulbul is besotted with Bulbuli even though he does not know about her nature and has never struck a conversation with her. The infatuation is based on her looks alone.

When his friends – Sheikh Chilli, his jinn Noorie and a talking toy named Khatku – ask Bulbul why he is feeling low, he says he is too insignificant for the rich Bulbuli. “But she is your ‘jaan’,” declares Khatku.

The group vows they will do anything to get Bulbuli do “friendship” with him. The friends approach Bulbuli when she is walking alone in the streets. When she is hesitant to speak to them, Noorie does some magic after which she begins to talk to them.

Sheikh Chilli suggests that Bulbul could show her around the town. Bulbuli agrees when told that the rest of the group would be accompanying too.

After some time, the group is spotted by Seth Heeralal who is worried and searching for Bulbuli.

When Sheikh Chilli tells Heeralal that they are Bulbuli’s friends, the rich businessman derogatorily calls the group “chane murmure khaane wale”.

Hearing this, Sheikh Chilli lies that Bulbul is no less than the rich Seth and is actually a prince of a (fictitious) kingdom called Chinchpokli.

Heeralal says that he wants to see the kingdom.

Sheikh Chilli proceeds to fool Heeralal. He fakes a building as the palace of Chinchpokli. Bulbul is made to sit on a carriage to fool Heeralal into believing that he is indeed a prince. Next, Heeralal demands that he wants to meet the king of Chinchpokli.

On Sheikh Chilli’s suggestion, his friend Mallika pleads to her father that he should pose as the king of Chinchpokli and meet Heeralal. The father refuses, not because he finds the suggestion unethical but because he is “too busy”.

Dejected, the group turns to a police havaldar to do the job. The havaldar also refuses, not because he objects to this fraud but because he feels it could cost him his government job.

Eventually, the head of the local police station agrees to pose as Bulbul’s father – the king of Chinchpokli.

The climax shows that a thief steals all of Heeralal’s wealth, but is caught by Bulbul, who bravely fights him off. An impressed Heeralal agrees to Bulbul and Bulbuli’s “friendship”. The two donkeys hug.

Here’s a series of tweets on the episode posted by the handle @gemsofbollywood. All clips from the show can be seen below:

As can be seen, this episode of the children’s show Sheikh Chilli and Friendz has lifted its plot straight from several Bollywood films, particularly of the 1990s, that glorified stalking and use of fraud identity to win over a girl.

Needless to say, this content, when repackaged as an animation show for targeted viewing of children, is worrisome.

The fact that this comes at a time when states are dealing with increasing crimes on women by men who lie about their name and identity, is even more concerning. The show also advocates use of lies to achieve a purpose.

It is pertinent to mention here that like children, as young as 13 and 14 years of age, have been found to be involved in perpetrating sexual attacks on their classmates. This observation finds a mention in the user handbook on Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012, released by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR aka national child commission).

There is a need to urgently review the contents of children’s shows telecast on various platforms, given their easy access to the viewers today.

Related Posts