#FeatureFriday: ‘Good Morning Mumbai’: The hilarious animated short that looks into the serious slum sanitation problem

‘Mumbai’- the very mention of this word creates myriad images in one’s mind. ‘The city of dreams’, ‘The city that never sleeps’- several such names have been given to it. Counted amongst the most prominent metropolis in this country, Mumbai has a colour and essence of its own. From the glamour of the showbizz to the hum drums of the ‘chawls’, this city never fails to surprise and shock at the same time. After I moved in here, I felt out-of-place in this cobweb of daily urban life. Soon, the terrible traffic, unpredictable rains, soothing beaches, ‘vada-pav’ stalls, all became an inseparable part of my life. But what attracts my attention the most is the extreme disparity flowing through the veins of the city.
A still from ‘Good Morning Mumbai’
In the time when prime minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign is making headlines, especially in terms of sanitation, and films like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha being made, the ground reality of this city seems to be far from reaching that point, just like other metros. Taking up this concept, Rajesh Thakare and Troy Vasanth from the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, have created a animated film, Good Morning Mumbai as a part of their diploma course. “This was a joint diploma project by me and my classmate, Troy to create a short animation film for an estimated duration of 10 to 13 minutes that deals with the urban sanitation problems,” said Thakare in an interview with AnimationXpress. The story follows a slum tenant who sets out for his morning duties in a common toilet but a series of unfortunate events causes a barrier for the purpose he had set for. He finds a way out and accomplishes his goal which in turn, seeds another problem for a different group of people. The film depicts the basic problems caused by urban growth such as-lack of space, infrastructure, sanitation problems, pollution, congestion, density and the inter relationship with each other, to make the people aware of the existing situation with a hilarious story line. Making an animated film isn’t an easy task as it involves a lot of process such as concept development, story-boarding, character design, animation, compositing, sound designing and so on. It is rare that an individual does all the process by himself. So, both of them joined hands to showcase how one’s desperate measure of finding a solution, in the urban space, causes problem for the others. Their course of visual scripting played a huge role behind the making of this film as it dealt with the ways storytelling, mainly, about real life experience that deals with social issues in linear or non-linear way. Being asked about the inspiration behind the film, Thakare reminisces, “I was born and brought up in a lower middle class family in Naik nagar (Chembur) which is one of the slums in Mumbai. Life in slum is not a cakewalk because of problems such as congestion, poor sanitation and pollution. Life is full of struggle everyday but people are used to survive in such life condition. Their philosophy of life is different, people living close together sharing happiness, sadness, love and affection. It’s a different world all together.” Naik nagar is generally active and noisy but it gets more active and noisier in the early morning with people running around for drinking water, to wash clothes, to wash up and to do their morning duties. This noise as he said, always used to be his alarm to wake up and get ready for the day. “As soon as I am done with my brushing, my mind gets into a dilemma whether to go to the common toilet or not. Naik nagar has only few unclean broken toilets for the whole community. In the mornings especially from 7am to 10am it used to be very busy with a big line of people waiting in queue and it takes at least 20 minutes to half an hour for my turn to get in. Half an hour in front of the common toilet in the beginning of the day– what a good morning for a good day! That’s how the film was conceptualised,” he added. The story that was a part of the narrative course exercise and resting in scribble format for a year, took an interesting turn when Vasanth, who also had to go through the harsh reality found it, and decided to convert the story in to the film. “Both of us had our own point of views to the sanitation problems in slum/chawl and tried and retain the those with adding more layering, minute details, storytelling and events,” Thakare noted. With guidance and encouragement from NID animation department coordinator Sekhar Mukherjee, the concept was brought to life through animation. The animation style of Good Morning Mumbai is very real and unique and almost looks like a moving graphic novel. Thakare was responsible for illustration, story-boarding, 2D character animation and compositing while Vasanth looked into animatics, 3D modeling, camera animation, music, sound design as well as compositing. They experimented with a combination of classical animation and 3D computer generated animation to use the strengths and weaknesses of both mediums to our advantage. “2D classical animation mixed with 3D animation was challenging to execute. To go along with the concept, story, and the location of the film we kept the look and feel rusty, earthy and textural, even for 3D animated sequences. Building the slum and train in 3D, gave us the better handling and possibility to move in space to unfold the story, keeping the look and feel intact. We had to develop unconventional workflow, working back and forth for most of the sequences tackling two totally distinct mediums which was time taking,” the duo concluded.
(L-R) Rajesh Thakre and Troy Vasanth receiving award for the film.
Thakare and Vasanth has also won several awards for Good Morning Mumbai such as Jury Critic award MIFF 2012, Second best animation MIFF 2012, best student Film AYACC China, best student animation film Infocom, special mention in Chitrakatha International students animation festival, special mention Asifa INDIA, special mention Anifest Mumbai, competition selection In Animamundi Brazil, selected for screening in Animac Spain. Thakare and Vasanth are also co-founders of Black Bird Design (animation and design studio), along with Niwesh Gurung and Nalini Butia who work on client based projects. Currently working on a short film about plastic pollution to be out in few months, we can sure expect some amazing and sensible work from this promising duo in the near future, probably another film based on any other city with all its baggage and quirkiness or on some other aspects of this happening city. 

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