Animagic "UP TO 'MAAAA'-A-GIC!" Interview with Chetan Sharma

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The Raju & I creators are ready with their next film which is due in Feb.

The guys who’ve given Indian animation Raju & I are at it again. MAAAA (you pronounce it like a bleat of a goat), their next film after Raju & I, which has been commissioned by CFSI is nearing completion and will be ready by end of February ’05.

In a visit which was long overdue, Animation ‘xpress met up with the team at Animagic Special Effects at their studio in Mumbai’s Charni Rd, and spoke to Raju & I animation-director Chetan Sharma. The talk was quite a revelation.

Speaking about the new venture, Chetan says, “We had originally conceived MAAAA in 97, that is, it was one of the earliest concepts that we toyed with, we storyboarded it then. In 2003 the CFSI commissioned this movie. MAAAA has a different set of challenges as compared to Raju & I. It is an entertainment film for children and while we do want it to be comparable to the best Mickeys and Bugs, we are keen that the entertainment be more homespun. In the sense of being from our own roots of folk theatre and its derivative Hindi films, rather than be a collection of gags and animation clichés that come to us from the west”

“The film being a CFSI film will also be taken to the remote parts of the country and hopefully its raw earthy quality will entertain children everywhere. The film is still evolving and probably will do so till its last day” he adds.

Headed by the formidable troika of Gayatri, Sumant Rao and Chetan, Animagic, ever since it set up shop in 1997, has been involved in making one fascinating animation after another. “When the first wave of “outsourcing mania and globalization hit these shores…We decided to stand apart and focus on animation and what it means to us and to make films we believed in and that’s all we had to begin with. No capital, no backing, no equipment, no team…only dreams and convictions.” recollects a proud Chetan.

Chetan started early in life when he joined Ram Mohan while just 15, out there he worked under Gayatri’s direction on a 20 minute film for CFSI. “She had just returned from Disney after a 4 month internship and charged us with the secret behind Disney animation. How the animators thought and shared ideas –practice, hard work and pushing each other towards excellence” he recollects.

Drawing their dreams - Chetan, Gayatri & Sumant

Gayatri and Sumant Rao (he’s also an aeronautics engineer from IIT,Mumbai) are IDC alumni who in many respects pioneered animation in IDC in an era when there was almost no technical support or infrastructure for it. Finding people who are sincere, honest, idealistic and committed is not a common privilege…I am honoured to be working with them.” Says Chetan glowering praise upon his partners.

The first assignment that the troika undertook (1997) was illustrations and the animated video for Girish Karnad’s Karadi Tales. There was also the title sequence for a hindi feature film Dhoondte Reh Jaaoge. In the past 7 years, Animagic has done a lot of commercials, titles, music videos and illustrations, these include CeralacICICIPerkElf, India’s first ever fully cel animated music video for Karadi Tales, special effects and animated titles for feature films like Hey RamJoshDhadkan,and most recently Munnabhai M.B.B.S. The studio has also taken on designing and illustration assignments for several children’s books, website designs and has done the storyboarding for pre-production and conceptualization of films like Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Mission Kashmir, his forthcoming projects Move 5 and Yagna, as well as Ram Madhwani’s yet under wraps epic.

Even as the studio kept at its work, one fine day an organization called ASEEMA approached them for an animated film on children’s rights and the rest is history (Raju & I).

Animated dream - Chakachak

Other than MAAAA, the studio has recently delivered the highly amusing and interesting Elfcommercials and a 5 minute animated song sequence for Sai Paranjpe’s latest project Chakachak. This environmentally oriented children’s film has just been released in Pune and the stylized song which deals with a child’s nightmare of environmental degeneration has generated a lively response.

Personality as the driving force - Elf TVCs


Talking about the elf commercials, Chetan says, “The Elf commercials have really caught the viewers’ fancy and we have been getting a lot of appreciation for the same. Essentially these films are very personality driven and the animation for each of these people focuses on certain traits and idiosyncrasies that are particular to their regional origins..” In the 4 films, the Mr.Lele has a very restrained and gentle personality , while Satti is the boisterous plump and voluptuous sardarni… Fatfatee waale Mishraji has the highest recall thanks to his bearing likeness to Bihari politicians, and Thangarajan is the southie who does things matinee idol style”


On Animation

“First and foremost this is an ART form, not just an assembly line production technique for making quick dollars. Your duty towards your art is that you should be constantly learning and you have to be paranoid about giving your best to your art irrespective of clients. If you are serious about animation then budgets don’t matter. Only your commitment does.” When your work speaks for itself, the economics will eventually fall into place”

“There is so much to do in animation and so few who can do it. There has to be that fired up obsession and animators must grow and evolve. Mere squash and stretch does not make animation. It is the performance that matters”

“The true weight about a piece of art is the amount of feeling it evolves in the audience”


“I would like to liken animation to sculpting and it is up to each individual artist how much character he is able to find…everybody looks at stone. But a sculptor like Michelangelo can find a David in it. We all stare at blank paper. We try to find the personality of the character in the drawing and acting and hopefully it resonates with life. It comes on its own”. Obviously this applies to all forms of animation.


On animation schools and training


Animation is about learning with someone in whom you trust and believe in. It is not a ball bearing or iron pipe industry, it has a lot to do with art, passion, emotion…..In that sense, animation can be likened to a classical art form like music or dance. First you learn the techniques for a long time and then to understand how to effectively apply those techniques so as to arouse a feeling or emotion in the audience is practically a life long learning experience.

Many so called schools are exploiting the youthful energies which obviously want to learn everything and get on with the fun stuff. Such huge amounts of money are being transacted with dreams of bringing to life lions, aliens and monsters. Nothing we have seen so far in the work of the students would seem to justify the time, money and effort that goes into most of these sorry experiences. And the effect on the young wannabe is either that of despair or a false sense of arrogance of having done a course which cost a great deal and should hence call for high expectant salaries. One can’t even start bringing such people to earth…

Education as anyone can see can make or break a person. And one awaits a sober school where students acquire the passion for animation. Rather than become experts in 6 months.


On Comics

These days comics are being increasingly seen as a springboard for animation. while they do work that way ….that’s not all…, the medium of comics is a completely fascinating art in itself…and we were very interested in the fantastic possibilities inherent in the graphic art…it has already been taken to great heights by amazing artists all over the world…read anything by Will Eisner, Osamu Tezuka, Mike Mignola and see how primitive our concept of comics really is.

We have all grown up on ACK and I am a great fan of some of the best illustrators like Ram Waeerkar, Pratap Mullick, Yusuf Lien and others…however while they did manage to educate us in a remarkably tight 30 odd pages it would have been interesting to see a story unfold in a more dramatic way …certainly if I do get into comics, I would love to focus on the comic in a graphic novel format…there are also some projects that we might explore in a graphic format. At the moment though, I feel there should be no competition for time with animation. There is just so much to do…


On outsourcing


While I do not personally subscribe to the mad rush of getting work from the U.S. .it does disappoint me that that’s all everybody seems to be obsessed about. Looking for work in the US is one thing and cleaning their mess is another thing, initially before the outsourcing wave started, people used to look down at the Philippines and now suddenly we have demoted ourselves to trying to become their competitors. And we apparently have an ‘edge’ in that we speak English well…and our labor is cheap.” he comments dryly.


"Lets focus on animation and make films we believe in" Animagic Director Chetan Sharma

On Animagic


“The most important thing about Animagic is that we operate as one large family. We have been through hungry times and there has been such competition that greed could have been evoked”

“Our studio is insulated, there is so much to learn that there is no time to look around and get caught in the stream of glamour”

“Many of my guys have been working here for the past 7 years. There wasn’t anything tangible to hold them here then no show reel, no film, no money, yet through just faith and belief in our dreams we have come this far together. Needless to say, we have a long way to go…but it is deeply satisfying that everyday of your life you are doing what you truly believe in, with people who believe in you and slowly and steadily seeing all that you wished for, happen. In fact we were told that ASIFA members who had seen Raju & I in the US are still talking about the film months after they saw it. To them, every scene of the film was full of new sights and sounds that were uniquely India…for them it was genuine India…the real potential of Indian animation.”

– Anand Gurnani

Monday 20 December 2004

One Comment

  1. shina
    Posted January 24, 2015 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Hello I am doing animation course please give me your phone no

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