Is Bollywood Killing the Animation Industry?September 27, 2013
Why are we yet to see a super successful animated film produced in India?
The top 5 grossing movies in Bollywood are usually the ones that happen to have big superstars. The A listers compete with each other trying to outdo the previous weekend’s 100 crores and counting. In Hollywood the top grossers may not necessarily be the ones with big stars but a star does help. But they are more franchise driven than star driven. Of these you are sure to find an animation movie make it to the charts.
It’s funny that many would say animation films don’t have a market in India when the same bunch of people would jump to the theatres to watch a Toy Story 3 or a Shrek. And yes there’s the good old debte about regional cinema, that India is not just limited to multiplexes in metros. Yet, a lot of films are made with the multiplex audience in mind. So why then, are we yet to see a super successful Indian animation film?
Animation has existed since man learnt to tell stories and draw on cave walls successfully portraying the very spirit of his or her subject. Even today, if one were to look at these drawings one would say they look “life like”. In that sense, the birth of animation dates back to 40,000 years. However, even today, the essence of animation still remains the same. It has always been about conveying a certain feeling and capturing the spirit of the character through pictures.
To start with a blank piece of paper and infuse life into characters through plain pencil drawing is the work of an animator. Technology may have advanced and animators may now use a digital pen but what never changes is the animator’s ability to capture the spirit of the character, which is key to animation. An artist is a visionary in his own right as he brings with him not just talent but his own imagination. And making an animation movie means nurturing many such visionaries. Something very few producers in the Indian film industry are willing to do.
Vladimir Tytla, one of the original animators at Disney, brought life to famous characters like Jumbo and Grumpy in the Snow White and the seven Dwarfs who we still remember. Today we have Nemo and Woody who will probably live on for generations. Animation has the ability which enables this art form to reach out to audiences no matter where they are or what language they speak.
However, is making a 3D animation films a commercially clever thing to do in India? Leave alone thinking of making a movie that employs traditional animation. There has been nothing on Indian soil that has been a commercial success in animation leaving aside the movie Hanuman and the Chota Bheem series.
Animation by itself, and I’m including 3D animation here, is a risky bet for Producers and studio executives. At first it requires a well crafted story, this would mean honing writers that understand the medium and write for it. Secondly, it has no superstars. At best, you can get a superstar to voice it. And finally it takes, in the minds of many, forever to make. You simply can’t shoot it in three months.
So in a chop-chop shooting world, is this really worth it? One would rather spend crores on a song sequence than explore this medium of storytelling. We are now caught in a chicken and egg situation. There has not been a super successful animation film in Indian and therefore studios don’t think it makes sense to pump in money to develop high quality animated content. And therefore, there won’t be any super successful animation films in India.
That’s not to say the onus lies on big studios to try animation. There’s the remarkable Sita Sings the Blues that came out of one woman’s vision, so let that be something to go by. All you indie people out there, here’s a medium you could adopt.
No one can and shouldn’t take away the fact that animation is a very effective medium to tell a story and for that matter any story. Start with the tools you have.