March 21-2016
Upasana Nattoji creates quirky animation for Amitabha Singh’s ‘Shortcut Safaari’

Animation defines itself as a creative medium to communicate. When it comes to films, animation acts as a catalyst to tell the story profusely with added colour, motion and characters. When Animation and Bollywood join hands it’s definitive that the outcome will be ‘Creativity in Innovation’. The normal flow of film making continues, it’s just that the animation helps set the pace for a live action film. And as far as kids are concerned, animation works well to create an impact. Director and cinematographer, Amitabha Singh, used this same technique of incorporating animation in his recent film – Shortcut Safaari to kick start this movie.

With a one minute animated title sequence of the film, Shortcut Safaari revolves around a story that extends its tentacles to diminish the boundaries between nature and man. Starring Jimmy Shergill as Chief Jimmy and seven kids taking the lead as the main protagonists, the film was released in theatres on 4 March, 2016.

Shortcut Safaari

Following a script of seven teenagers being lost in the jungle in the arms of nature, Shortcut Safaari aims to show the friendship between man and nature thus trying to portray the overwhelming beauty of nature. Though the film is entirely live action, the director thought of animation to create a feel, best appealing to the kids. The budget was tight, the script simple yet Amitabha wanted to touch his target audience ‘Kids’ in a candid way.

He says, “What better medium than animation can entertain and grab the attention of kids. I wanted to grab the eyeballs of everyone when they sit in the theatre itself. I wanted viewers to enter nature right at the start of the film.”

As storytelling has a number of ways, he added, “In film making, you either tell the audience the story or you let the audience imagine the story by leaving abrupt ends. I wanted my audience to use their imagination to create a world of their own and as my target audience was kids, I wanted them to imagine without any boundaries.”

Shortcut Safari 2

Animation

As far as the animation is concerned, to create the title sequence Upasana Nattoji was roped in who created the entire animation from her studio called ‘Switch!’ The animation is a distinct piece of art as it has its own abrupt feel. It is neither crisp and clean like animated features or shorts seen these days, nor is it scribbled and vague like amateur drawings. It is some way intermediate and Upasana says, “We wanted to keep it somewhere in between so that it prepares the kids and they can connect easily. And, it is abrupt for it is a typical creation of a child. After all, a child may not create perfect images!”

Diving into the creative side of the creation of this animation, this title sequence was completed in a period of one month and is a combination of mix media. So, it may seem as 2D animation on some occasions while 3D on the other, including stop motion and simple paper cut out animation during the rest. Upasana adds, “I have used different styles for there is no specific style when I think of a child animating herself, but basically it is all 2D.”

Shortcut Safari4

On the thought of the characters Upasana explains, “The girl character was created just because it does not resemble any character in the film while we thought of the leopard as the girl’s pet because it is an endangered species just like nature itself is endangered.”After the characterisation, the scripting was done in order to show a simple routine of a kid’s day from her life.

Creating everything on Illustrator, After Effects and Photoshop, Upasana kept the animation simple, with few basic colours and a number of activities happening like brushing of teeth to playing with a pet. She concludes, “It depicts a day of a child with her pet.”

Amitabha adds his thought process, “There are a lot of things that children don’t tell their parents but may tell their pets. This animation sequence is all about this expression of a child in her own language to her pet. ” The sequence is abrupt, random, simple and innocent just like a child!

Music

The animated opening title has a unique sound which seems to be a coded language formulated by the music director, Rohit Sharma, himself. He says, “I have formed the language on my own. When my daughter was small and was learning to speak she would talk to my wife in a unique way; with no words but just mere expressions. This entire voice in the background of the animation has been formed from there. It is just a mere form of expression of any kid, nature’s calling and the kid’s response to nature. There are no specific words, no sound, no instruments used, it is just vocals.”  Sharma recorded and composed the music in a matter of just four hours and Amitabha Singh was happy with the final product because it was natural and raw.

Direction and Cinematography

Having worked as a cinematographer on films like Khosla Ka Ghosla, Chillar Party and The Good Road, Amitabha Singh has picked up a number of tricks of film making and believes,  “The director’s job is to direct the imagination of the audience and he should be able to do it.” He believes that as a director and effective story teller, the audience should be kept engrossed in the mood of the frame by using every frame. And that’s where animation comes into play in this film. He explains, “As a director for me this animated title serves multiple tasks like giving importance to the heroes behind the film, preparing the audience for something and a foreword to the main story, therefore it is a mix of a lot of things and animation could convey it in a subtle way without shouting about it aloud.”

Animation in live action is not something new to the industry. There have been films like Shaandaar and Taare Zameen Par that have used few sequences of animation to enhance the live action in the main script itself. But, Shortcut Safaari has used animation in to exhibit its title sequence. Moreover, there is a unique language involved which may if not soothe you, but grab your attention.

All in all, Amitabha Singh and Upasana Nattoji along with Rohit Sharma have tried to create something innovative in the field of animation. Something simple, yet effective and appreciable! Amitabha sums up this effort saying, “All we wanted to do is ‘Let people imagine’.”