According to screenplay writer Advaita Kala the dearth of audience is because it is still a children-dominated genre.
Fans of animated movies still have to look to the West for interesting offerings, because, when it comes to animated films, Bollywood still has a long way to go. Why do we continue to give animated films a wide berth?
Wasn’t it impossible to resist the bumbling charms of the Kung Fu loving Panda, Po? Didn’t we all hope that forgetful Dory would finally find her parents? And weren’t we mesmerised by the green ogre, Shrek, and his motley bunch of friends? Recently, the Parr family kept us at the edge of our seats with their superheroic pursuits in Incredibles 2.
Animated films are a delight to watch because, apart from presenting us with the cutest, most unique characters, they also touch upon some out-of-the-box plot lines. Unfortunately, to get our dose of these cartoony delights, we still have to look to the West, as Bollywood has a long way to go when it comes to animated films. Though in the past, the industry has presented some memorable offerings like Roadside Romeo, the Bal Ganesh and Bal Hanuman films, the endearing Chhota Bheem and a few others that capture the charm of mythological epics, yet, the numbers remain paltry when compared to films of other genres. Why does Bollywood continue to give animated films a wide berth?
Film analyst Omar Qureshi feels it isn’t because India lacks the technology to create good animated movies, but because of an absence of stories. He says, “India has the best animators and 3D visualizers in the world and are the brains behind some of the best animated films in Hollywood. The reason we have fewer films like Shrek, Madagascar and Coco is because of the same malady that ails our mainstream cinema: lack of good story and memorable characters. If our filmmakers get humour and characterisations right, they can storyboard an animated film in the blink of an eye.”
Director Saket Chaudhary, however, feels that lack of audience and competition with features from the West dissuade filmmakers from experimenting with animated films. “In comparison, the audience for animated films isn’t very large. We don’t have a culture of children’s programmes either, as children end up watching big budget Hindi films rather than watching material that is specifically made for them. Also, there is steep competition as animated films from America are very good. Since the audience has to pay to watch a film, they will choose the superior product,” says the director.
According to screenplay writer Advaita Kala the dearth of audience is because it is still a children-dominated genre. “Animation, like science fiction, feeds off sub-cultures and other mediums of expression, like video gaming and comic books for adults. People in Japan are familiar with anime characters. You need that kind of ecosystem for adults to get trapped into it. India lacks this ecosystem and so, animated films will continue to remain a children’s genre for sometime, until we have a burst in animation, like you see in Japan,” she says. Advaita also feels that there is a lack of funding when it comes to animated projects. “The industry is just not willing to support these films or mark out budgets for them,” she says.
Echoing the view Vijesh Rajan, VFX Supervisor at Plexus says, “India has the technology and the skill set, however, there is a lack of interest in building narratives that lend themselves to animation. Even if animators come up with their own content, producers are not willing to back these projects.”
But it seems that production houses face their own set of challenges when it comes to earning returns on animated films. Prakash Nathan, founder of Eagle Eye Entertainment, a film distribution company, explains why producers are reluctant to invest money in animated films. “Animated films require a huge budget. Unfortunately, there isn’t a very large market for Indian animated films. In the case of Hollywood animated films, they have a huge market because the entire world is their audience. Once our content goes to other countries, that is when we’ll have more films. Recovery has to be there for the investment one puts in,” he says.
While all these are legitimate obstacles moviemakers face, we can do our bit to help eliminate some of these. The best way to encourage the making of Indian animated features is by going to watch them. So, the next time an Indian animated film hits the big screen, make sure you get yourself a ticket. If nothing else, it will awaken the curious, creative child in you.