February 17-2020
‘Please’, Indian animated music video on sexual abuse, nominated at the Oregon Short Film Festival 2020

There goes hardly a day when we don’t get to hear about any incident or news about violence against women. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) released by the Union health ministry, every three women out of 10, has faced violence of various forms in India since the age of 15.

In times when talks and writings about women empowerment is sky-high, women are facing visible and invisible forms of violence till date. Often ‘objectified’ or ‘thingified’, women are treated as ‘playthings’ in most cases. Thankfully, that scenario is getting better for good, but it’s yet to normalise in a broader sense. Several content is being created around the topic in various mediums, including music and animation.

Music video, Please, which uses stop-motion animation to depict the condition of a sexually abused woman. This animated short film, created by animator Naveen Kiran Boktapa, has been nominated for the Oregon Short Film Festival 2020, to be held on 19 February. Also, recently it was selected for screening at the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) 2020 in the best film category. 

The video features The Majolly Music Trust founder-trustee Neecia Majolly, who’s an acclaimed singer, songwriter and celebrated pianist based out of Bengaluru. She is seen singing while the animated frames portray the sad position of women. Majolly has also been vocal about several issues of concern like ivory poaching in the past.

“When Majolly approached me with her song, Please, I asked her if she wants a subtle treatment for the video or very straight forward. She said it should be very direct, disturbing, loud and clear. After listening to the song, some visuals flashed in my mind. I translated them into a rough storyboard and shared it with her. She loved it and we started the project. The idea was to show the dark misogyny in the society. How every section of the society is wired with it. And how the society becomes insensible and numb towards the sufferings and feeling of a sexually abused victim. So we decided to represent the exploiters as hyenas or wolves and to create the environment with news paper articles about sexual abuse and crime,” shared Boktapa with Animation Xpress.

Naveen Kiran Boktapa

Please has a powerful impact with sharp lyrics and strong visuals which are quite disturbing and makes one infuriated. Boktapa’s animated work for Please is vaguely inspired from Jan Svankmajer’s Dimensions of Dialogue and took him three months to complete. It was published on YouTube in 2019. 

Added Boktapa on the animation style, “It’s not like the technique or visuals are inspired from Dimensions of Dialogue, but the feeling of the movie. It’s very subconscious, I can’t explain it in words. To get a  very rustic and disturbing feeling, I decided to use stop motion as the technique. The character Armatures were created using aluminium wires and were shot on a green screen. Dragon Frame is a wonderful software to shoot stop motion animation. It makes the process very easy, while the sets and environments were created digitally using After Effects.”

Majolly and Boktapa knew each other since 2015, when The Majolly Project came into existence and both of them came across each other’s craft. She had a wonderful experience working with him and gave him complete freedom to execute their ideation of the animation. “I just gave him a brief about the song, Please and what was it about, rest he did it himself. Because I had no idea about animation and left it entirely to him and the result is the brilliant animation you see in the video. It’s been a pleasure working with him even in Connection,  another music video. It’s great to work with someone who understands your thoughts and what you need clearly. I hope to work with him in the future too,” she noted.

Coming from a tribal nondescript Sumnam village in Lahaul and Spiti district, Boktapa was a student of IIT Bombay and trained under industry veterans and professors like Phani Tetali. Defeating his barriers and shortcomings, Boktapa has come a long way to tell wonderful and necessary stories through animation. He also worked on post-production DigiCon6 Asia award winning animated short film, Death of a Father, by Somnath Pal. Recently, he also shared the stage with national and international stalwarts like Eeksaurus founder and director Suresh Eriyat and Academy award winner animator Michael Dudok de Wit at MIFF 2020. 

Please have got positive responses and feedback from the audience and industry experts alike. Though he didn’t win the award, the film brought him some name and a good break. 

“My experience in MIFF was overwhelming. It was my first time at any film festival. I met so many young passionate film makers as well as seasoned industry experts. Meeting and sDe Wit and other legends like Eriyat, Dhvani Desai, Pencho Kunjev in a panel discussion were the best moments. I also got to watch so many amazing films from across the world, in animation and non-animation medium, it was so inspiring,” he exclaimed.

The message is very clear in the lyrics and animation, about sexual abuse happening with everyone irrespective of age and sex the women and children and even with the men. Sexual abuse is a serious crime in our society and through the video, it’s an appeal to treat each other like human beings.