He is 75 years old and his career straddles both the film industry down south and Bollywood. But veteran director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao still approaches movies with the wide-eyed excitement of a child. The man who brought us such films like Pushpak (a silent film starring Kamal Haasan), Michael Madan Kamarajan and Son of Alladin, is now ready with the animation movie Ghatothkach. In an interview with Surya Praphulla Kumar, the director opens up on the movie, the challenges he faced and why he feels he is very similar to the character, Gattu. Excerpts:
Why do animation films in India tend to revolve around mythological characters?
Animation in India is just starting in terms of original content creation. Mythological subjects are rich in content and revolve around a lot of magic, fantasy and interesting stories. Besides, the characters are known to the audience, which makes it easier to connect with them. So, currently, the flavour is mythological, though I can say that Ghatothkach is no god but just a unique and intriguing character from those times.
The promos of the film look really good. The animation seems to be much better than Hanuman and Bal Hanuman. What kind of technology has gone into it? Anything new?
Thank you for the appreciation! Ghatothkach has been made in 2D classical hand drawn animation. There is some amount of 3D animation used as well, so that I could portray some of the larger than life fantasy sequences well and I must say the animators have done a marvellous job. We have made sure there’s no compromise on the quality.
For the first time in Asia, 48 Camera Motion Capture Technology has been utilised in an animation film. The animation is done in the US, the UK, Canada, Philippines and India. Also, the English dubbing took place in Los Angeles and Canada. Another highlight is that the choreographers have choreographed the songs in a live action setting, so that the exact emotions, expressions and dance movements could be picturized. This was then passed on to the animators for reference while animating the songs.
Indian animators have created Oscar winning animation (like The Chronicles of Narnia and Golden Compass) for Hollywood. But Indian animation still doesn’t have the finesse of the western ones. Why is that?
Indian animation industry is considered internationally as an outsourcing destination. So, most of the movies that you see from the western world definitely have some part of their film made by Indian animators.
In my opinion, original content creation in India is in its infancy today, but we are all learning. We have our own style of filmmaking and story narration. Just as Indian live action films are gaining popularity in the world, it is just a matter of time before the same happens to Indian animation films as well. We have come a long way in the past couple of years and with each new release the quality is improving.
How does one go about directing an animation film? Is it more difficult than directing a regular film?
The vision and creativity of a director has to scale to the big canvas, that is, 35 mm. The medium might change from live action to animation, but it’s important that the vision scales to that height. In animation, we can explore the medium to the best since there are no live characters in it, so there are no limitations to the characters involved. I feel in animation, creativity is given no boundaries and can soar to any level. And I wouldn’t consider it to be more difficult than directing a regular film.
What inspires you to continue working today? What made you take up the Ghatothkach project?
I am a child at heart. In a sense, every day when I get up, I think what new thing can I do today. I am like Ghatothkach in some senses. I love to eat, I am fun loving and keep trying to explore new types of subjects. I always wanted to make this in animation since I started my career as an assistant director in Maya Bazaar 54 years back. So, when the producers Shemaroo Entertainment and Sun Animatics approached me, I happily accepted to direct it.
It’s almost poetic that you started your film career with Maya Bazaar as an assistant director, and now almost 54 years later you are working on an animation that has taken its storyline from Maya Bazar. Any comments?
It has been a great experience working in this industry for 54 years. And working on the subject with which I started my career has been more challenging and very exciting for me. Making Maya Bazaar in animation was always my dream. So when the opportunity of directing this film came my way, I immediately grabbed it. Compared to the original Maya Bazaar, in the animated Ghatothkach, we have explored Ghattu as a child–his mischief, his magic and his long-lasting friendship with Gajju, a baby elephant.
You are also the composing Ghatothkach’s music. Is it difficult to don both caps at the same time, or does directing actually help in composing the music?
I wanted to find a music director who would compose music that would be fun for children as well as foot tapping for adults. I kept thinking who should we approach and one day, when I got up in the morning, I thought to myself, who is the biggest kid amongst the music directors and I said “ME”. So, I proposed myself to the producers, Vinod and Smita, and they happily agreed.
It is not difficult to do both the jobs since, as a director, I knew exactly what I wanted and the music director in me listened well. But I had my producers all along to correct the course just in case the music director got too carried away. But I must say I had the most fun while doing the music for this film.