Independent Indian animation has been making its presence felt for quite sometime now. With innovative ideas and techniques, depicting a stark picture of society or even effects of climate change and more, independent animators and filmmakers have covered it all.
Lately we reported about Ghost Animation’s WADE and Divakar Kuppan’s The Fox of the Palmgrove being selected for Bengaluru International Short Film Festival (BISFF). Today we look at another animated short, Oru Thudakkathinte Kadha or Story of a Beginning by Balaram J, that too has been officially selected for BISFF 2020.
Elated by the selection at the festival, Balaram said, “It’s an honour to be selected at BISFF and I am humbled by the recognition, to share the list with some of the best animated short films of the year, like WADE and Kapaemahu,” while giving the first interview of his life.
A former NID (National Institute of Design) Ahmedabad student, Balaram explores different beliefs and faiths people have, and how those help them lead their lives and look for answers and finally make peace with them, in this Malayalam animated short film.
Produced by Lijo Jose Pellissery, Balaram was supported throughout by them and took exactly a year (his first meeting with Lijo) to complete the film on 22 February 2020 him in making this film. He used TV Paint for animation, Photoshop for backgrounds, After Effects for compositing, and Premiere Pro for editing.
Speaking about drawing inspiration for Story of a Beginning, he stated, “The story stemmed from the strong belief that fighting over religious beliefs is the stupidest thing one can do in the 21st Century, as a better future is only achievable by a community that can think beyond religious boundaries and accept differences of opinion.
While looking for potential stories for my animated short, I revisited my childhood memories and noted down a couple of interesting incidents. Going in search of the beginning of a small stream, back in my home village, was one of them. When I strongly felt the need to talk about religious tolerance in the country, the dots organically connected and the story formed. It was polished through reading books, discussing with friends, and travelling.”
The pre-production and production is done by Balaram himself, with constant support from friends and faculties at NID. Additionally, involvement of noted sound designer, Renganaath Ravee, composer Sreerag Saji, and the creative studio Eunoians at the post-production stage made the film into a concrete whole.
While throwing some light on the process of execution and animation, he informed, “Before I started my story boarding, I did my research for the visual data. So I went back to my home village, Onakkoor, to collect visual information needed for the story. I made sketches, took photographs and shot reference videos which came in handy while animating. Then I sketched it down on Photoshop and after that directly did the animatics followed by the rough animation. Then I did all the cleaning up, and since I was the only one working on the animation, and it was a lengthy film, so it was a practical decision not to do in betweens but to use that very rough scratchy lines, which I think also went well with the style of the film.”
The animated film has received a total eight official selections internationally till date with a special mention at the Tagore International Film Festival, West Bengal.
Balaram further added, “This was the first time I was handling real character performance and dialogues. So first I did the voice acting myself so that I have a clear understanding of how I want the dialogue deliveries to be and accordingly I did the animatics. Next came the animatics with my voice over. Later, we auditioned a few kids from my village and then recorded their voice and accordingly the rough animation was executed. All of it was done digitally, though initially I thought I would draw the scenes using watercolour on paper. But it was absolutely inconvenient because there were around 160 backgrounds and some of them were panoramic, so I opted for digital.”
Sound effects play a big part in this film, and so does silence. Story of a Beginning portrays a soulful picture of the innocence, simplicity around us that are fascinating yet we tend to neglect them and not enjoy little moments. Whenever the creator found it difficult to communicate certain ideas through visuals, music and sound effects conveyed it, including major plot points. The foley was done by Purple Grape in Mumbai, who took some sounds from their library and created some.
Currently working on the post-production works of Lijo Jose Pellissery’s CHURULI and the pre-production of a few other films, Balaram mentioned that all humans are in a quest to find meanings to their lives and “our beliefs navigate us to the answers of our questions and provide us with peace, the same happens in the film. But the answers about life are not something that is limited to a few individual’s ideas.”
This 11 minutes 48 seconds animated short depicts that soothing picture after we learn to make peace with our lives, with earth other’s quest and beliefs. And our findings resonate that the greater truth is similar and lucky are those who realise this fact.