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Some movies touch your heart…. and soul. Yesterday I happened to be browsing during a break in a news channel and my remote stopped at a channel that was screening CJ 7, a science fiction. All I happened to see were a few scenes that struck a chord and opened the floodgates of my emotions. The little protagonist Dicky’s father, a construction laborer finds out his son has cheated in his report card and is upset because he has been working hard to educate his son. In his anger he confiscates CJ7, a cuddly alien that he has gifted to his son earlier and goes off to work. At the site he gets killed in a freaky accident. The scene is about how the boy is shocked out of his wits and cries himself to sleep telling himself that his father would not leave him alone. And sure enough, the cuddly alien revives the dead man who is found lying beside the little boy the next morning. The single tear from the little boy’s eyes on seeing his father alive is enough to draw out emotions even from a robot.

This simple movie from Hong Kong released in 2008 stands testimony to the fact that a movie does not need huge sets and a big star cast to touch the heart of the movie goers. Watching this movie led me down memory lane to recount other fantasy and science fiction that snared the audience’s attention and continue to linger in their memories as memorable film-watching experiences. What is it that makes a movie unforgettable? Some movies with simple plots seem to elicit phenomenal audience involvement emerging as all time hits. What makes these movies tick?

Films like Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Lion King and Ratatouille have touched the hearts of millions of children and adults world over and to this day remain as all time favorites. The 1994 American animated musical adventure, The Lion King by Walt Disney Feature Animation is about a lion cub that was tricked into thinking he killed his father. The guilt ridden lion cub flees into exile and abandons his identity as the future king. Your heart goes out to Simba the cub and you undergo the entire gamut of emotions that Simba and his friends experience when try to regain the lost territory and status.

Who has not fallen in love with Remy the young rat in the French country side that arrives in Paris in search of his cooking idol and makes an unusual alliance with a restaurant’s new garbage boy, Luigini, only to help transform him into a chef and finally a restaurateur? Released in 2007, Ratatouille is a computer-animated comedy film that has witnessed stupendous success in the annals of global cinema.

These movies are fantasy films that have been able to elicit real emotions and empathy among the viewers. They have all had simple story lines and a humble star cast or animated characters. The voice cast in the animated movies has been simply remarkable, bringing out every nuance of emoting. These movies did not appear to be artificial or raise questions about the impossible situations and characters of the films.

Yet, from the stables of the Indian tinsel town, despite the fact that we have a huge pool of creativity and intellect, we have never had an all time historical hit , be it a cartoon, or an animated film or even the odd fantasy science fictions. Of course, films like Koi Mil Gaya did make an impact and Jadoo, the alien elicited a few tears amongst sentimental mortals like me, but once you are out of the movie hall or television, the movie is forgotten.

 A film without human characters is difficult to make because you have to bring out the diverse facets of human character through animated, robotic characters. Despite the tremendous advancements in graphics and design and the most skillfully depicted fictional protagonists that have been created by filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and others, infusing emotions in these characters is singularly the most difficult aspect of filmmaking. Intelligent and planned voice cast has been able to offset this handicap to a large extent.

India is surging ahead in the field of multimedia. Some sporadic attempts are being made in the arena of animated films. But so far we have not been able to create movies or serials like Heidi, Tom and Jerry etc., which endear the audiences and provide real entertainment and relaxation. Young filmmakers with a vision to make a mark in the world of cinema are emerging. Combining the skills of our knowledge in graphics and design as well as the inherent creativity and intelligence of young Indians who can draw from the enormous wealth of mythological stories (which can be modernized), the world of animated movies opens up an entirely unexplored realm of opportunities for aspiring filmmakers. All they need is out-of-the-box thinking to explore new storylines and create fantasy films for a global audience. Who knows, this may bring in a few global awards too!  

But for this, Indian filmmakers should come out of the culture of high melodrama and histrionics and try infuse as much as seemingly realistic characters and situations as possible to capture the involvement of the audience. And definitely we must cut out on masala formulas, clichéd dialogues and lyrics and oops… no songs please!  And we definitely don’t want item numbers from cartoon characters!

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