Isha Mangalamurthy remembers ringing laughter in her ancestral home and being surrounded by a kaleidoscope of colored chalk even before she learned the many ways to braid her hair. “When I was three, my grandmother would give me a box full of chalk and draw with me on it Shahabadi floor of our house,” she recalls. “Sketching as well as bedtime stories were an essential part of every day. As I grew older, the stories were replaced by 90s cartoons, but I kept a sketchbook Started making too.
Following the recent release of the film starring Hrithik Roshan, the 27-year-old from Pune is one of the rising stars of India’s small community of animators. Vikram Vedha, She was part of a team of eight people who worked on the opening sequence of the film, which gave us a brief overview of the story of King Vikramaditya and the wise ghost Betal.
The sharp colour-blocking, animated prologue – with an interplay of light and pirouetting shadows aided by a background score on steroids – which ends with Betal clinging to the flabby Raja’s back and whispering his popular line is: “May I tell you a story?” – Sets the tone for the film.
stereotypes are meant to be ignored
Animators around the world are working against the odds and the same is true for India: underpaid, their work sidelined, and so-called experts who believe that animators deserve the same status as our greatest storytellers. Can’t be considered in deity.
While the Will Smith slapgate controversy overshadowed nearly every frame of last year’s Oscars ceremony, it was offensive to the animators for a completely inexplicable reason. before presenting encanto Best Animated Feature award, presenters Lily James, Naomi Scott and Halle Bailey joke Animation It was only for the kids. Even host Amy Schumer added her two takeaways about animated films, saying: “I’ve only seen one encanto because of my child.
“Animation is cinema,” says Debjyoti Saha, a 28-year-old animation filmmaker and founder of Goppo Animations in Kolkata. “Over the years, audiences in general have seen animation as content limited to a certain age level, mostly for comic relief. As the world is changing and ways are up, the motive is to tell stories in different contexts and aspects.” This perception has to be changed by addressing
Animator Debajyoti Saha
Saha’s versatile portfolio shows what the art form can do: grunge, monochromatic animation with splashes of yellow in the music video for Prabh Deep’s ‘Chitta’, which satirizes drug abuse; Animated title sequence showing a spirited women’s race in Netflix film loop wrapped, and the music video for Divine’s “Mera Bhai”. “Every story needs to be treated differently and that’s why we exist in the first place,” he says. “So, stories drive my style. After all, there are some radical ideas that can only be executed in animation.
A clip from Debajyoti Saha’s music video for Prabha Deep’s ‘Chitta’
A clip from Debajyoti Saha’s animated title sequence for a Netflix film loop wrapped
Nikunj Patel, the 30-year-old founder of Mumbai-based studio Moebius – who works with a wide network of graphic designers, illustrators and animators – believes it is at the intersection of the meetings of the minds that animation’s full potential can be harnessed. To be done “For the longest time, animation in India focused on mythology and many Indian animators my age wanted to do something different. We didn’t know how and the only way to do it was following our revolving vision of what animation could do.
Animator Nikunj Patel
One of Patel’s successes was the video for Ariana Grande’s 2021 and The Weeknd’s ‘Save Your Tears’. He worked as a solo animator on a global animation team and completed the video in less than three weeks. “I keep sharing my work with studios and directors around the world in the hope that they will either commission me or [so I can] Just learn how international animators do it,” he says. “One studio I sent a cold email about my work to was director Jack Brown, with whom I worked for about a year, before He wanted me to be a part of the music video.”
Nikunj Patel was a solo animator on a global animation team who worked on Ariana Grande and The Weeknd’s ‘Save Your Tears’ music video.
Another big project was last year for ‘Stratego’ by multiple Grammy Award winning English heavy metal band Iron Maiden. The video depicts the board game Stratego as a real-life, high-stakes battle between warring armies launching torpedoes and balls of fire at each other.
Patel is incorporating “the wonders of this collaborative appeal” into his studio as well. Her recent project was at the intersection of food and art: working with Lakhan Jethani, chef of Japanese restaurant Mizu Izakaya, on creating a short animated film Chawanmushi, an egg custard dish in Japanese cuisine. “We documented the chef making that dish from every single angle, and I spent hours studying that footage and creating an edit,” he says. “I am delighted to have the opportunity to use my music in film to bring together the worlds of visual arts, animation, food and music. It was a really satisfying experience.”
About turn by turn children’s animation
Indian animators are now moving beyond the children’s projects that were once their forte. Today, animation in India is becoming increasingly personal. The young animator isn’t afraid to engage his tools with what he sees as a sick world. Saha’s personal Instagram page went viral during the farmer’s protest when he created artwork supporting the movement and taking a jibe at the attacks on Mahatma Gandhi.
Similarly, Deepti Sharma, a 26-year-old Goa-based animator, works as a visual storyteller at Quicksand, a design and research organization, where her role is to work on impact-focused storytelling with or without animations. One of his recent projects is highlighting the biodiversity disaster that would be unleashed on the people of Mollem in Goa, a protected area, if three unplanned infrastructure projects that were completed during the pandemic go ahead without a thorough Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). was approved.
“I found out about it through social media and now we are a bunch of lawyers, designers, teachers and others,” she says. “And it is working because the Supreme Court has already ruled in our favor to block the transmission line and the permission for the railway line has also been cancelled, but it is a constant battle.” Along the way, she channels her queerness through the fluid world of animation, having already worked on a music video for a popular dating app that portrayed the darker nuances of love between lesbian women Is.
psychedelic art for nft
The styles used are varied, ranging from 3D and psychedelic animation to flat style characters, kinetic typography and old-school animation. In line with what is in practice globally. Abhishek Verma, 34 – who won the 2018 National Award for Best Animation macher jhol (A heartwarming story of a boy who cooks a traditional Bengali curry with the hope that it will be easier to come out to his parents at the dinner table) – Shares that he uses experimental 2D in his films .
His latest, an independent work titled project manhole, blends virtual reality and 2D sketches with a 3D treatment to immerse viewers in the horrors of manual scavenging. “The form itself should become the medium of storytelling,” he says. “This creative treatment of the medium becomes important in itself for a sensitive story.”
Does the world of cryptocurrency and NFTs provide opportunities? Sharma is skeptical because of the inherent volatility of the crypto world. However, Asha Susan Alex, 26, an animator based in Kollam, Kerala, has already worked with NFT projects in a professional capacity. “The kinds of projects we get now would have been unimaginable in the past,” she says. “Animation is time consuming and even a studio like Disney will take days to work on one layer. Now, with software like Blender and Aftereffects, you can achieve that gorgeous feel all on your own, without having to work with a team of 20.
A similar sentiment is echoed by Puks, a 27-year-old Bengaluru-based animator who blends 3D animation with hand-drawn 2D illustrations, drawing inspiration from Studio Ghibli films. “As an animator, we don’t have to be constrained by any medium,” she says. “So, when I worked with Grizz and Wiz Khalifa on the ‘Find My Own Way’ lyric video , there was complete independence from his end. Recently, she sold some of her artworks on crypto-based platforms such as OpenSea. And his work, Golden Hour, depicting untold love and the sacredness of silence, was featured at Art Basel 2021, an international art fair held annually in Switzerland, and is available exclusively on OpenSea.
Clockwise from left: Isha Mangalamurthy, Puks, Abhishek Verma and Asha Susan Alex
Most of the budding animators in India are freelancers or have started their own studios. “Usually it doesn’t make sense to work full-time for someone else’s studio because the money will be less, and [there would be] Less creativity,” says Verma. A freelance animator earns an average of ₹60,000 to ₹80,000 a month, but this often comes with unrealistic deadlines – a difficult path they are still navigating. And while there is a lot of work in the entertainment sector with the increase in the use of animation in films and music videos, animators share that Their biggest employers are the corporate and fintech sectorsFor whom they design motion graphics, short commercials and things like that.
The animation industry is by no means nascent in the country. In many ways, Indian animators have been at the forefront of innovative storytelling, replete with a quirky visual language. But now, thanks to the rise of small-scale studios, from Saha to Patel, they are not afraid to raise their voices.
The author is a writer and editor based in Mumbai.