A trip down memory lane of Indian Animation.
On 23rd Jan, TASI conducted one of its most sought after session –Indian Animation Retrospective at Whistling Woods Internationals’ sprawling campus. The journey into time came alive when the pioneering stalwarts themselves enthused a 400+ strong audience with their anecdotes, trials and tribulations in trying to kick-start the Indian animation industry during the late 50s.
The Indian Animation Retrospective package –the first of its kind, curated by TASI in consultation with the animation community, was presented by the septuagenarian VG. Samant (Director of the indelible animation short “Tree of Unity” -1972 and the first commercial blockbuster feature “Hanuman”) and Mr. Bhimsain (Director of the historic animation short “EK Anek Ekta” and many other award-winning short films). The 3rd pioneer –Ram Mohan could not be present due to a sudden emergency development on the home front. He was sorely missed on this momentous occasion.
The incubation of Indian animation started with the formation of the “Cartoon Film Unit” at the Government organisation of Films Division in the mid-50s. For the first time, Indian artists got an opportunity to learn the art of animation under the tutelage of Claire Weeks, a Disney animator who came to India under the INDO-US Cultural exchange program. The idea to initiate such an exchange to develop animation in India was mooted by none other than the then PM Jawaharlal Nehru during his visit to Disney Studios. As a direct result of Claire Weeks’ training, the short film “Banyan Deer” was produced in 1957 in India.
The Journey continues to showcase some of Pramod Pati’s stop-motion films. Pramod Pati was a great experimenter, an inspiration as the head of the Films Division in the 60s. In the early 70s short films like “Ek Anek Ekta”, “Swimmy” and “Tree of Unity” became etched in the Indian psyche due to their high exposure on the only available state run television service -Doordarshan. The enthralled and intrigued audience was taken through the entire journey as the veterans spoke about their early days at Films Division, their problems, their undying passion and underlined their determination to succeed despite heavy odds.
The retrospective journey ends in 1995 with Shilpa Ranade’s award-winning animation short “Mani’s dying” which signaled the beginning of a new era.
Each film was followed by a short discourse by Samant Sir and Bhimsain Sir that brought to light some very interesting behind the scene developments. These first hand accounts of how the films were conceptualized, financed and created including techniques used with and tips and tricks considered path breaking at the time, were most interesting. The one common fact that came to light was that all these people made their films because they loved the medium, still have the same passion and craving for working in the medium and never let monetary considerations dictate their approach.
Reiterating his passion and commitment, VG Samant implored the new generation to look at this medium as an art form, live it, breathe it, love it and practice it with determination and diligence. ‘I am always there for you for whatever help and guidance you need’. Even at this age it was amazing to see him multi-tasking. He came to the TASI session and also had a function at his training institute on the same day.
Senior animator director Mehul Virani (Crest Animation) in the audience inquired as to what was the motivation for these veterans way back in the 50s, especially when the generation today is only concerned about how much money their films will make and how they can capitalise on their creation, Bhimsainji answered, money was and is important, but never became the driver, ‘we never cared about whether our films would make money or not. What was important was that we completed the film and got the audiences to see it. That remains as intoxicating today as it was 40 years ago’. He urged gen next to imbibe expose themselves to other creative art forms as well. ‘Being a student of classical music has immensely helped me in my understanding of the film genre. I am able to practically see the edit points of my film at the conceptualisation stage. Understanding and love of music is an invaluable asset to any animation film maker’, he explained.
The early contribution by the pioneers set up ground for the unprecedented growth of the Industry since the mid-90s. This session was a homage to the contribution of these Gurus. It is a known fact that these three stalwarts have been responsible for mentoring almost all of the leaders of their next generation. This session will be remembered for a long time by all those in attendance.
TASI announced its future sessions for the coming months at the end of the event and requested all those present to keep an check on the website for details that will be updated soon.