Thousands of Indian families in the US and Canada turned to the first Sanskrit animated movie, Punyakoti, to beat the blues of lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic, on the occasion of Marathi new year, Gudi Padwa and Ugadi.
Samskrita Bharati North America arranged for a screening of Punyakoti through Vimeo, for Indian families on 25 March between 2 pm and 6 pm (as per US timings). Whoever registered for the screening with the organising committee, received the link of the film along with its password.
“The event was a superhit. It was a first of its kind. We are overwhelmed by the response Punyakoti has received. People were registering and forwarding the messages within no time of sharing the details. 3000 to 4000 people showed interest to watch the first animated movie in Sanskrit, even though it was a working day. We were getting enquiries till the end moment. We are working with the Punyakoti team to ensure that it reaches every Sanskrit lover and admirer across NA,” said Harsh Thakkar who toiled for months to get this show organised coordinating between the borders. Thakkar, who’s a professor of computing at Sheridan College, Canada, is also a Sanskrit evangelist.
The trailer of Punyakoti received close to half a million views on YouTube, and the interest for it has grown organically. Sanskrit has been getting a lot of respect and interest outside India as well. Based on an episode from The Mahabharata, which is also prevalent as a folk-song in South India, Punyakoti tells the story of a truth-speaking cow. The plot is an imaginary take on the circumstances that led to the encounter between the cow and a tiger in a village that is facing an impending drought.
Noted Punyakoti director Ravi Shankar, a marketing and HR professional who spent four years to make his debut movie, “Knowing Sanskrit is not compulsory to watch Punyakoti. The American audience welcomes new stuff with an open mind.”
The 80-90 minutes animated film has a unique style that’s inspired by Indian folk-art with a mix of traditional and digital animation techniques with more emphasis on the storytelling than on the technical prowess. The team had invested a lot of time and dedication to bring out a style that draws upon the Indian temple art and puppetry- the forms and style which follows the proportion and aesthetics of Indian folk-art and sculpture.
“We invented the Sattvik storytelling that is unique to the movie where it unfolds slowly and you can savour the various elements of it fully. We consciously avoided the fast paced narration. I also took inspiration from the Sanskrit drama traditions and the rules set by Bharata Muni in Natya Shastra. ” added Shankar, explaining the narrative and revealing the details of the screenplay for the first time to AnimationXpress.
A month back, we revealed that an international digital platform had shown interest in taking the movie to the world. Now, streaming giant, Netflix has put Punyakoti among its ‘Coming Soon’ content slate.
Finally, Punyakoti will see the light of the day as the film has been continuously deferred since April 2019, when it was originally scheduled to be released. The first exclusive screening of the film for the crowdfunders, happened in October 2019.
Talking about the film, Sowmya who was among the firsts to savour the movie, said, “The language was simple to follow. So the rest of our family and the kids could understand well.”
Punyakoti also won three awards at Animation Xpress’ ANN Awards in August 2019, for ‘Best Animation Digital Film’, ‘Best Voice Over Artist’ (Revathy) and ‘Best Screenplay’.