A CATALYST TO INDIAN ANIMATION
roosters face off, they bristle, size
up each other, flap their wings, take
flight, collide in mid air while slashing
their beaks and claws into each other.
People standing around watch with tense
faces as if their lives depend on it.
Every bit of what is being shown looks
real. You feel for the losing rooster
as it droops down, blood spilling from
its eye, feathers splayed and almost immobile.
Only, the roosters are not real; they
There is a common perception that ‘animation
is a costly affair that requires a high
level of expertise’. That is a perception
that to an extent has been brought about
by the abundance of high quality
animation from Hollywood while we still struggle to
produce something that is even as good as the ‘Looney
Tunes’ or the ‘Merrie Melodies’
of the 60s and 70s. Yes, we have been far behind the
benchmark of animation worldwide, while still being
the second biggest film industry in the world.
There have been pioneers and trendsetters who have
tried to do their bit in making animation a saleable
proposition in India, but they have been few and far
in between. One still remembers the delightful use
of animation characters with Superstar in Raja Chinna
Roja. But, even that could not spark off a widespread
use of animation in our film industry. Yes, the use
of graphics and visual effects to enhance the on screen
effectiveness has become bread and butter for the
Indian cinema industry. But, the actual use of characters
created through animation is a rarity. Recently, there
have been attempts like Roadside Romeo in Hindi and
Inimey Naanga Dhaan
in Tamil. The recognition that
they got was perhaps not good enough to encourage
further such attempts.
But, there is also a good reason
for the tepid welcome
to these films. The Indian urban audiences have been
fed for more than a decade on world class animation
movies like Shrek, Ice Age, Finding Nemo, Toy Story,
Wall E etc that one cannot blame them for finding
the products of the fledgling Indian animation industry
as a bit amateurish. Hollywood has taken upon animation
in such a big way that it would not be wrong to say
that it may even overtake the ‘real cinema’
in the future. Remember, even Avatar can be considered
an animation film, with a few clauses and conditions.
We have top notch animation features releasing almost
every month – even 2010 was profuse with them
– How To Train Your Dragon, Megamind. And, more
success is in store for animation as successful films
have begun to give rise to many strong franchises.
We have already had a few successful franchises like
Shrek, Ice Age and Toy Story. 2011 is brimming with
animation sequels like Kung Fu Panda 2.
So, where does the Indian film industry stand amongst
this? Pretty far behind one would say. The one major
animation feature that is in the making in Kollywood
has been on the anvil for a long time now –
Sultan The Warrior. But we can be encouraged
increased presence and importance given to animation
in recent Tamil cinema. The costliest Indian film
to be ever made, Endhiran
, relied heavily on animatronics
and CGI to become a stunning visual spectacle. It
might be considered the benchmark with regard to animation
in Indian cinema. But many differ with this view because
imported all the visual effects talent
from abroad, Industrial Light and Magic and Stan Winston
Studios, to be precise. The real victory would be
when local talent gets enabled to pull off something
on this scale. That is where the recent Aadukalam
is a really encouraging step.
It might not be a film that has a lot of visual effects.
But, whatever little is there is of very high quality
– by Indian standards. Perhaps the director
was forced to go in for animated cock fights because
of a persistent animal protection policy which forbids
film makers from torturing them. But such a roadblock, which many film
makers have complained about earlier,
might in fact end up having been a blessing in disguise
for Indian cinema. Vettrimaran turned a problem into
an opportunity and showed that good animation is possible
even within the budgetary limitations of Indian cinema.
The cock fights are not there just for the heck of
it, they have been crafted, animated and presented
in a way that draws you into the frame and gets you
involved in the ‘life or death’ fight
of the roosters. To the best of our knowledge, no
talent has been exported to create these scenes. It
is all local talent that has been used. And that augurs
well for Indian cinema. The animation boom might be
sparked off now – perhaps!