February 18-2020
Young Indian animators are making their presence felt with brilliant award winning creations

Animated films by young, independent and creative filmmakers are gaining praise all over! With the medium gaining more popularity and respect, several film festivals are showcasing and awarding brilliant animated films and their creators. Divakar Kuppan and Swati Agarwal are among the many whose passion and creativity have been recognised and appreciated lately. 

Kuppan has recently won the Silver Conch for Best International Animation at MIFF (Mumbai International Film Festival) 2020 for his animated short film The Fox of the Palmgrove or Panangaatu Nari. The film depicts “how a random television visual triggers the memories of an old man in which we go through a sequence of random events which summarises his entire life.”

Talking about the concept of his film, he shared, “Being an ardent student of Andrei Tarkovsky films and an hardcore student of the works of Russian Animator Alexander Petrov, I’ve always wondered what it would have looked like if Tarkovsky made an Animation film using Petrov’s technique. This crazy idea is the driving force behind making this project. I felt that the idea was worth trying. Coming to the theme of the film, my village and my grandfather were the biggest inspiration for my art. The visuals in the film are inspired by what I’ve grown seeing around my village. Adding to that was my grandpa’s stories. I just wanted to give life to those visuals through the craft of cinema through animation.”

The Fox of the Palmgrove has received amazing feedback from audience and industry legends alike as well as a lot of awards and nominations, such as – Official Selection at International Film Festival of Ahmednagar 2020; Official Selection at Athens Animfest 2020; Best Student Animation at CVWF Short Film Fest, Mumbai 2020; Official Selection at Rushes National Film Festival, Bangalore 2020; Best Animated Film at Rome Independent Prisma Film Awards 2020; Finalist at FROSTBITE International Indie Fest, Colorado 2020; and Bhimsain Emerging Talent Award 2019 at Anifest India 2019 Mumbai.

Kuppan receiving award at the MIFF 2020

Agarwal’s short film Amrita, on the other hand, about felling of trees and the Bishnoi Village legend, was screened and nominated in the national category in MIFF getting great response, and won the first prize under the Children Films Category at Woodpecker International film festival in December 2019.

“As part of a project in IDC (Industrial Design Centre), IIT Bombay as a research associate, I was asked to make a film related to environment conservation from the Indian folk tales. This project was sponsored by The Ministry Of Culture (NVLI), India and D’source(MHRD). Prof. Ravi Poovaiah and Dr. Ajanta Sen mentored us throughout the film. While researching, I came across the story of ‘Amrita Devi’ who belonged to the Bishnoi community of Rajasthan who are known for their zeal of protecting the trees and animals of their village. This story inspired the film and I wrote the script for it. I hope such films get a larger platform so that more people get to watch it and be moved by it,” she said.

The film was well received in both Indian and International film festivals. Such stories and films should be given exposure so that it inspires people to protect, love and respect our environment for the generations ahead.

Agarwal with her award

Amrita also won the jury selection award for best animation at Mumbai Short International Film Festival lately. Amrita also marked its name as it won the Festival CINEMA et LA MER in the animation category held in Mirleft (Morocco) in 2019; Best environmental film Beyond Earth film festival, Kolkata.

Both films have their unique and innovative style of animation that the film makes its own. The Fox of the Palmgrove took Kuppan three continuous months, working 12-15 hours day and night on a regular basis for the production. 

Added he, “As I said, Petrov inspired me very much and his animated epic, The Oldman and the Sea is like a bible of Animation for me. So, I wanted to try Petrov’s technique of painting on glass Animation and handpainted live under camera with software assistance. But, I didn’t want to replicate the same aesthetics that Petrov has already done. So, I practiced a lot of unorthodox approach to the Petrov’s style and that gave the film a typical aesthetic quite different from that. And for post production, it took a separate month. So the eight minute 56 seconds film was done in roughly 100 -105 working days single handedly.”

The Fox of the Palmgrove

The Fox of the Palmgrove got great feedback from my department final jury which was a big boost for him as at the stage there wasn’t any sound design. So with all the feedback from the department he completed the sound design and started sending it for the festivals starting from TASI 2019. Winning the Bhimsain Emerging Talent award out there and a lovely citation by the juries was a huge confident booster. From there on people started getting amused by the look and style of the film and the storytelling as well. 

For Amrita, Agarwal informed, “We were a small team of five to six people working on it. Shyam Wanare and Ramya Hegde worked wonderfully on the animation and designing the serene backgrounds of the village in the film. Being the director, I designed and animated the characters, which were inspired from the ‘phad’ paintings of Rajasthan. Since Rajasthan is known for being the land of colours, we chose to add vibrant colours to the background and the characters. Simplifying the characters and making it look authentic was a challenge. Adobe Flash and after effects were used to animate all the characters and to add effects to the background. Next came the beautiful music by Uttam bhat and Shantanu Yennemadi that added life to the visuals.”

Currently Agarwal is working on a short stop motion film based on animal non-violence and is inspired from one of the philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi.

These animation enthusiasts wish to create something very exotic and sacred, that will appeal to anyone who has the least idea of the art animation. With young creative talents being acknowledged and appreciated with awards and nominations and screenings, Indian animation industry is moving towards better and glorious days.

Amrita