By Nita Deshmukh. Posted on December 07, 2015
Who doesn't love a good animation film? While there are more than a dozen channels today, back in the day there was only Doordarshan and the animation series & films they showed. Some of you who grew up in the 80's, might remember those Sunday mornings when we used to be glued to the television set, waiting for our favourite cartoons? For an entire generation growing up in the late 80's & early 90's, Ek Chidiya, Anek Chidiya was an anthem.
Indian animation has a long history, with Dadasaheb Phalke making The Growth of Pea Plant, a stop motion film, way back in 1912. He made a few other animated films, mostly shorts, like Agkadyanchi Mouj, Laxmicha Galicha and Vichitra Shilpa. Indian animators, to name a few like G. K. Gokhale, K. S. Gupte, Mohan Bhavnani and Mandar Malik, were experimenting with the format in different parts of the country.
In the year 1957, an animator from Disney Studios, Claire Weeks was invited to the Film Division (FD) to train the animators and help set up a Cartoon Film Unit at FD. The first official Indian animated film Banyan Deer was made in 1957 under the supervision of Clair Weeks and G.K. Gokhale, which offered a curious blend of animation styles where the King's character was inspired by the Ajanta frescoes and the deer bore striking resemblance to Disney's Bambi.
After being trained under Clair Weeks' supervision, animators Bhimsain and Ram Mohan started their career in the Cartoon Film Unit. Soon in 1965, an official training program in animation was initiated at the National Institute of Design. The landmark animated film Ek Aur Anek Ekta was made in 1974 by the Films Division, which was a short traditional educational film broadcast on Doordarshan. In 1992, Japanese filmmaker Sako and Ram Mohan made the epic Ramayana into an animated movie Ramayana - The Legend of Prince Rama, which received excellent reviews abroad.
Mainstream studios have largely stayed away from animation, especially since the first Indian 3D animated film Roadside Romeo, (a joint venture between Yash Raj Films & the Indian division of the Walt Disney Company) bombed at the box-office.
Sadly Indian animation has never really managed to go beyond just been 'entertainment-for-kids'. Much of our animation work continues to ape the western (Disney) style of animation & we haven’t been able to develop an indigenous style of animation that stems from our folk tradition, unlike say, the Japanese. This is changing, albeit slowly, with animators like Gitanjali Rao , Shilpa Ranade and Soumitra Ranade leading the charge. Their films like Rao’s Printed Rainbow & Ranade’s Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya have shown the possibilities that exist for those animators who are willing to engage with our cultural heritage and leverage it.
There is a new breed of animation artists who’ve taken up this challenge. A lot of these animators come from schools like NID & IIT-IDC and are using animation to tell stories that have hitherto not been told in this format. While making an animated feature film requires a heavy investment, most of these young animators have created a good body of short animation films that leave us with hope for the future.
We’ve listed below some of these animation shorts. These films have used a wide range of animation styles & backed it with music to create an experience that is only possible in animation. We hope you enjoy watching these as much as we enjoyed creating it.
This 15 min short animated film by Gitanjali Rao highlights the loneliness of an old woman and her cat, who escape into the fantastical world of match box covers. Rao painted the entire film frame by frame over three years. The film went on to premier in Cannes in 2006 and won her the Best Short Film award at the Critic's Week. It also made it to the long-list of ten films for the Academy Awards in 2008, besides winning 25 International Awards and traveling to over a hundred international festivals.
Gitanjali is a self-taught animator, filmmaker and theatre artist. She has made animated shorts like Orange, Blue, Girgit, True Love Story and Kaleidoscope. She has been in the jury at various International Film Festivals including Cannes Critic's Week for short films in 2011. Her last short film True Love Story, premiered in the Short Film competition section at Cannes last year & won multiple awards & accolades the world over. She is currently working on her first animation feature, Bombay Rose.
Good Morning Mumbai is a student diploma film directed by Rajesh Thakare and Troy Vasanth from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. A fine blend of traditional and 3D animation techniques, the film deals with the lack of sanitation facility in the city of Mumbai. The director duo also reflects several urban concerns like overcrowding and contamination in this 13 minute film. The short film won the Jury Critic award at MIFF (2012), Best Student Film at AYACC China (2011) and was a competition selection at Animamundi Brazil (2011) apart from screening at Animac Spain 2011.
Keli is an interesting example of animated storytelling by Ranjitha Rajeevan, an alumna of National Institute of Design, Ahemdabad. This 6-min long film is a tale of an ancient rebel and how the allure of his dance captivates a little girl. The beautiful use of folk music from Kerala immediately transports us to the land.
The entire film is hand-drawn frame by frame coupled with folk music. Keli was nominated at several film festivals including Alta Langa film festival, Sardinia film festival and 7th International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala.
Aai (a Mother) is an animated short film about a mothers unconditional love for her son, her perspective of having a baby and watching her son grow up, and everything that happens in the middle. The 14 min long film is a single layer, single take hand-drawn animation. Music and sound by Anirvan Bhattachrya is instrumental in taking the narration ahead seamlessly. The film won the Best Film (Jury) at Kolkata International Short Film Festival.
Dhak (Drum) was made as a student project film by Rajesh Chakraborty at National Institute of Design. This 3 min long film offers the dynamic experience of 'dhak'- the drum played during Durga Puja celebrations in Kolkata. The film is visually rich and shows a side of India that is rarely explored in our films, be it live-action or animation. The film fetched six awards including the Grant Award at the prestigious Toonz Animation Film Festival.
This animation film, released by Childline India, covers the sensitive topic of child sexual abuse in a very simple and interactive manner & informs children about how they can protect themselves from such abuse. The film has been dubbed into 12 regional languages and won the National Award for the Best Educational Film in 2015, the FICCI FRAMES BAF Award - Best Animated Short International, and was also the official selection at the Athens International Short Film Festival, Psarokokalo.
Chasni is a film by Abhishek Verma, a post-graduate in Film & Animation from Industrial Design Center, IIT Mumbai. The film, made using monochromatic pencil sketches, addresses the physical and mental trauma of acid attack survivors. The short went on to win Best Short Animation Film at the Indian Film Festival in Melbourne. Abhishek is currently working on his second animated short Maacher Jhol, a story of a homosexual man & his struggle to 'com out' to his father about his sexual orientation. The film is currently crowdfunding & you can make it happen by supporting it here - support Maacher Jhol.
What did you think of the list? And which one did you like the most? Do let us know if you think there other films that you think we missed out on.