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Dilli Animation Kyon Nahin Banata – Why Delhi Doesn’t Make Animations?

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It was still cold up here in Delhi, and the lawns of our great big public parks still attracted people on warm Sunday afternoons.  In the first week of January, 2013, I started a controversy on social media that Delhi does not create enough animation.  Many months before that I had also tried to find out if any animation film of more than thirty minutes’ duration had been made in and around Delhi.  My interest stemmed from the fact that no animation film festival had been organized in and around Delhi in years, whereas as a child I still remember going to Sapru House on Barakhamba Road almost every Sunday to watch a “Children’s film”. Many of these Sundays were the hub of some of the most classic animations – Sindbad the Sailor, Chuk and Gek, Aladdin, Tom and Jerry, just to mention a few of them.  And I was keen to do in Delhi what “Katha” had done in Kolkata.

South of the Vindhyas, animators were churning out quality productions, setting up studios, attracting employments, and integrating the whole spectrum of verticals that are key to the animation eco-system.  I must confess that the release of Chota Bheem, Delhi Safari, Arjun, Ramayan, Krishna and Tripura made me jealous as I had never been in my life. My creative instincts were on fire.

North of the Vindhyas we were churning out “trained animators” – about 40,000 of them annually, by rough estimates. More than 180 production studios, big and small, are around, with a classification of over 1150 freelancers in animation and related arts, waiting to be grabbed, along with a “crowd” of over 22,000 waiting for animation films to come in, as per the data-base compiled by us in Delhi.  Delhi perhaps also boasts of the largest TV channel in the country that can be a comfortable destination for local animation – Doordarshan.  But production-wise – not even one animation film beyond 5 minutes. Why is this a phenomenon? Geography could not be a reason – obviously not because the snow falls on the Himalayas, and not on the Vindhyas.  History? Again no, because the mother of Indian Animation did the “Ek Titli” magic right here, under our very own young noses, in the mid 1980s? Then why? Why a complete blank after that? Dilli animation kyon nahin banata?

Soon enough the Society for Animation in Delhi took up cudgels and organized on February 2, 2013 an open forum event (giving it the title that you see as the caption here), firmly believing that lots of animation can be produced here, even if we have smaller studios, fewer animators, story-tellers, sound designers, and all that goes into animation film production. So the exercise, which we called “controversy” to begin with, at that event aimed at finding the answers, and putting some method to the madness.  Let me admit, though only 20 attended, the passion was palpable.

Lots of Entry By Passion And Exit By Depression has taken place in the animation industry in recent times. Examples of Rhythm and Hues going bankrupt despite the Oscars, Disney closing one of its studios permanently, and others cutting down on costs by showing the pink slip to animators have dampened spirits. Quite simply – to get into animation production, it has to make business sense.  If there is production, there is investment.  And if there is investment, there will be income generation.  But if there is production, there also has to be a market to absorb it – people willing to pay for seeing the animation. The ASSOCHAM METS 2013 FORUM revealed that one animation film of 2 hours duration in the USA costs US $ 150 billion. Animation films use the costliest hardware, the costliest software and the most laborious tasks.  So the market ought to be that huge to absorb.  What was still more revealing was the fact that the cost of production is not the only major guzzler, marketing the film is an equally big challenger. Yet we have had success stories called Chota Bheem, Delhi Safari, Arjun, Krishna and Ramayan.  Hats off to these Gods.

So what is it exactly that can make production happen in and around Delhi? I’ll detail the steps to do all that as I write in the future. But, first and foremost, I firmly believe, even at the risk of sounding emotive, that the most essential ingredient – passion – has got to be the norm, culture and driving force to stand out.  Speaker after speaker at the forum reminded us that passion alone, single-handedly, will generate creative intelligence, innovation, the essence of the art of animation and the soul of the story that you tell – finally leading to the intellectual property that the animator must own. A culture of passion for creating animation – an immense will to tell your story through this medium and tell it innovatively well – does that sound like the missing link between the Vindhyas and the Himalayas? Aren’t we a little too skeptical about our presence at animation events in and around Delhi? Is the presence of our passion conspicuous by its absence? Food for thought … wait there’s more coming.

– by Madan Pania, President, Society for Animation in Delhi

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