Exclusive: Ghost Animation and Eknumber Studios’ stunning animation enriches Khatija Rahman’s soulful ‘Farishton’

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed several dynamics. As live-action shootings and productions were temporarily stalled, animation as a medium became a saviour for many. For music videos, animation stepped up and saved the day, fanning the emergence of a new trend.

Musicians like Prabh Deep, Dua Lipa, Anupam Roy, and many others took to animation to express their emotions behind their new singles and music releases. Music maestro and Oscar winner, A R Rahman along with his daughter Khatija Rahman too have chosen animation for their latest music video, Farishton.

Image exclusively shared with Animation Xpress by Ghost Animation

Farishton depicts a spiritual journey of Amal, inspired from Khatija Rahman’s own life experience – having lived in a multicultural family and having friends from diverse backgrounds. Through Amal, the audiences are introduced to Khatija’s epiphanic Odyssey to explore the unknown. 

The song is sung by Khatija herself with A R Rahman directing, producing and composing the music. The animation is created by Kolkata based Ghost Animation, with additional animation done by Eknumber Studios. 

Image exclusively shared with Animation Xpress by Eknumber Studios

Ghost Animation’s Kalp Sanghvi who served as the production manager and compositor for Farishton shared the experience with the music maestro and his team, “It was new for us in many ways, because it’s such a personal song for Khatija and Rahman Sir. We did a lot of visual research, figured out new ways of working and did our best to infuse the video with further meaning. For instance, we made sure that the character [Amal] always travels from right to left, which is the direction of Medina [Mecca] with respect to India, to show her focus on her journey. Overall, it’s always a pleasure working with Rahman Sir, there’s a lot to learn from his wealth of experience. We also hope that the video helps highlight what Khatija was trying to emote with her song.”

Ghost Animation had worked with A R Rahman’s team in Chennai before, for storyboards and much earlier on the title sequence of OK Kanmani. For Farishton, the studio was again recommended by his team. 

Image exclusively shared with Animation Xpress by Ghost Animation

Talking about the collaboration, Eknumber Studios senior motion designer Justin Fernandes said, “Ghost Animation had already worked on the animated sequences of the music video. It was Rahman Sir who got us on board for finalising the entire video. We at Eknumber studios have already worked with him before so we knew what he was looking for. He got us connected with the Ghost team and the collaboration was very professional. Ghost Animation were very open to finding creative solutions explaining how best we could achieve the desired effects, and how we might go about achieving a desired look for the music video.”

The Farishton music video infuses a feeling of calm, that feels like meditation. The soulful melody along with Khatija’s heartfelt singing brings a wholesome spiritual experience.

Image exclusively shared with Animation Xpress by Eknumber Studios

Animation director for Farishton, Ghost’s Upamanyu Bhattacharyya mentioned, “Rahman Sir and Khatija spent some time developing the sequence of events with Mumbai based artist, Sam Madhu. We came in at a point where the narrative was laid out, as the story has a meaning specific to the song. We then started with a fresh storyboard, worked on the character design and the concept art, and finally went ahead to animate the video.”

Elaborating on the process of animation, Bhattacharyya further added, “We divided our team into specific roles making the process more streamlined. We also worked with freelancers to get things done better and faster. For example, Yamini Sujan helped us out with background art (she previously worked with us on all four short films released last year). We have no restrictions when it comes to software. Every animator has their own choices (Photoshop, TV Paint, Krita and Blender) and we eventually integrate image sequences from all the animators in an After Effects comp. The video took us about four months to complete.”

Image exclusively shared with Animation Xpress by Ghost Animation

Talking about how working on a music video is different from that of shorts or series, Fernandes commented, “A short live action film or series has music that supports its story whereas a music video is a short film that integrates a song with imagery. The main motive is to prioritise the music, and when there is animation involved you need to make sure the visuals support the music in such a way that the message that the artist wants to convey is coming across.”

Farishton expresses and talks about fundamental ideas such as sharing, respect, helping those around you and the rewards of patience and perseverance. Stories about such ideas are always worth telling, and the animation studios are very happy to have been a part of such a project which was willing to use animation for all that it can do. 

Sharing her thoughts on the music video and choosing animation, Khatija shared with Animation Xpress “We chose animation as it appeals to both adults and children and we feel, more powerful visuals could be brought out through animation in terms of creating your own characters, bringing out magic elements and more. During the lockdown, we watched a lot of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies and we were inspired by his style, and created our own. So, we got in touch with Ghost Animation to make the video, with Sam Madhu as the creative director. It was a great experience working with the team of vibrant youngsters with the passion to create amazing things. They owned the project and created things way beyond our imagination. Our visions matched and you see the end result for yourself.”

She further revealed that they got a lot of feedback that the animated music video took people back to their childhood and brought such wonderful memories, adding a new perspective to the project. 

Fernades concluded, “Since the final output was exported from our end, we had already seen the video before anyone else. We just couldn’t wait to see everyone’s reaction to it. We know we have done a good job considering the timelines we got. Rahman Sir was very happy to see how it came out. It was a wonderful experience working on this project.” 

This is a joint article by Sharmindrila Paul and Yugandhara Shete