Two years ago, the Pakistani industry was taken by storm when a female superhero was born in the country’s first indigenous animated series Burka Avenger. Now, the country will soon witness the entrance of three kids superheroes in the form of the first animated feature film 3 Bahadur. A pet project of Academy and Emmy award winning journalist and now creative director of 3 Bahadur, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, it aims to introduce Pakistan’s children to local heroes.
“I had wanted to do something for children for a long time. Pakistan has a very young population and a booming media industry, but we have stopped producing quality content for children. In this movie, audiences will see streets and characters who look like them – from the familiar calligraphy that is painted all over the streets, to the crisscrossing wires that we have got accustomed to seeing around local neighborhoods,” says Sharmeen speaking to AnimationXpress.com. She goes on to say that all of Pakistan’s animation and variety shows are imported which leads to kids growing up with heroes and mentors that are disassociated with real life around them.
After brainstorming on the best way to go about producing a kids’ related content, the team at Waadi Animations (A joint venture between SOC Films and ARY Films of which Sharmeen is CEO) decided to embark on an animation journey. “We kept returning to animation because it offered us the most creative freedom and was a challenging yet thoroughly enjoyable process,” says Sharmeen. About 35 people have been dedicatedly working since early 2012 with five in the art department, ten in animation, eight in compositing, two in VFX, four in sound and two in graphic design.
The national release is expected in May 2015, international distribution will take place by the year end in countries with a large Pakistani diaspora.
The first step was to conduct focus sessions with children aged 6 to 16 years across socio-economic divisions and the script was fine-tuned as per their feedback while ensuring that the story stays local. “In a world of Doras, Ben 10s and Chhota Bheems, the fact that we are giving our children local mentors and heroes is one of our proudest accomplishments,” she proudly points out.
Sharmeen, who has dabbled in documentary film making and has won wide acclaim for it as well, was initially nervous for experimenting with animation. “I was nervous because I had never worked in animation before and documentary films are very different in terms of content and style. When we started working on 3 Bahadur, it was an uphill climb putting together a team, learning how animation works from the initial sketch to the final shot and diving into a medium that is both expensive and time consuming,” explains Sharmeen.
However, they could easily find illustrators, writers, animators and VFX artists which speeded up the process in a few months. The entire movie has been created internally with nothing outsourced. “It’s been a challenge for us, especially since many of us are doing this for the first time. We have supported each other throughout this process, and it is our passion that has taken us this far,” she exults.
3 Bahadur is the story of three children, Amna, Saadi and Kamil who fight for justice against evil forces in their community. The animation and rendering have been done on Maya, compositing on Nuke and VFX on Maya, 3D Max and Real Flow.
Several activities have been planned leading up to the release of the film to promote the first of its kind movie in the country. April will see the launch of a game app for Android and iOS. Comic strips with side adventures of the 3 Bahadur are being published in the Dawn newspaper’s Young World section, once a week and on social media platforms. A comic book, activity book and a card game will also be launched soon. School outreach programs are being undertaken across three cities where kids will be encouraged to use their own abilities to inspire change in their communities.
Though Sharmeen didn’t share details about the budget she says that the budget reflects the quality of the film. According to her, though Pakistani animators are capable of producing quality content, the country hasn’t given them an opportunity. “We certainly hope to match the quality of Disney and Pixar. Our animators are skilled enough to produce content that mirrors Pixar in terms of quality, but you need the budgets and timelines that will support such work. 3 Bahadur is a step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go,” she says.
Sharmeen is all praise for Burka Avenger, she thinks it should be capitalised upon to expand the industry and produce more original animated content. “We have created animated content for many years, but the industry is overwhelmed with product driven content, in which the focus is on selling rather than story telling. We need to move away from this model, and put the narrative first and Burka Avenger has paved the way in this regard,” she states.
Waadi Animations aims to produce all types of animated content including short films and TV series. The production house is already working on its second project.
However, the industry needs to buck up to achieve growth and if the animation industry in Pakistan can sustain the interest being created currently, Sharmeen feels it can achieve exponential growth over the next five years. She is also keen to collaborate with India, if given a chance. “Given Pakistan and India’s shared history and entrenched culture I would love to collaborate with an Indian studio and explore an issue that we have in common and compare narratives from both sides of the border,” she expresses.
In contrast to Indian cinema, she feels that Pakistan is still witnessing the rebirth of its film industry. “I have no doubt that this new wave of bold and socially conscious cinema will carve out a unique place for itself in the international sphere,” she states confidently.
The movie’s main voice has been given by Ally Khan, Behroze Sabzwari and Zuhab Khan while the music has been composed by Shiraz Uppal.