Animation is a huge sector, and without a doubt, a lot of creativity is left untapped in India. We do not have adequate distribution channels for animation, especially short films. The Indian animation industry has great potential as we have a wide and culturally vibrant audience to cater to.
Globally, I have seen an acceptance which needs to be translated in India as well. It is important for entry-level filmmakers to identify cost-effective options in order to ensure quality content. As a producer myself, I can say that the right content is not reaching the right people at the right price.
It is surprising that most animation films across the globe are outsourced to India. Indian animators have worked on some of the highest-grossing films, and yet we don’t exploit this talent for our own industry. Historically, animation films have not done well in India, an exception to this being The Jungle Book. It brought with it a sense of nostalgia and was able to attract movie-goers of all ages. Unfortunately, most animation films are made for children and it will be feasible for investors to fund them only if we start targeting a wider audience.
Over the last few years, Indian audiences have accepted all kinds of products and content but quality is key. The Indian audience is maturing day by day. I am sure our producers and directors are taking note of this and it is only a matter of time before we have big, local animation franchises. Those who tried them in the past were, perhaps, ahead of the times but recent successes suggest that the time is not far when animation catches on in India.
Content has come a long way in our films and the audience has developed a mature taste, opting for hard-hitting dramas compared to run-of-the mill, boy-meets-girl stories. Yet, on the animated front, India is still lagging. India has a few of the most accomplished animation houses, its members working for blockbusters such as Life of Pi, Skyfall and more. Yet, movie makers are sceptical when it comes to making an Indian-origin animated movie.
The root cause goes back to the quality of content created, which will take time to be at par with their Western counterparts. Also, a majority of the Indian-origin animated movies are either targeted at kids or are mythology-oriented, alienating a chunk of the audience. Hollywood is famed for its wholesome animated fare, aimed at the whole family.
Movies like Kochadiyaan and Chaar Sahibzaade have done their bit to lift the scene, with Chaar Sahibzaade being lauded for its content. Yet there is a long way to go.
The fact that the Indian audience assumes that animated films are restricted to children is one of the main reasons the Hindi film industry is not churning out animated films. We have the technology and Indian companies are providing the animation to many big Hollywood animated franchises. Where we are lacking is in content for this genre.
The Jungle Book did well in India because of its connect with the audiences. Kids who grew up watching the series on television back in the ‘90s went to watch the film as it had the nostalgia factor. It is not that actors don’t support animation films as they have dubbed for a lot of films. It’s just that filmmakers have to pick up the right kind of content and not restrict it to children.
Animation films have a restricted audience yet a few recent Hollywood films did very well in India. The fact that Hindi animation films don’t have a good budget to use good effects whereas Hollywood films have great content as well as the visuals to support it, changes the dynamics of the animation genre in India.
We have had many top actors dubbing for animation films but these films too failed to impress the audience. The Jungle Book was an animation film but other than that, many non-animation Hollywood films too are taking a huge chunk out of our collection pie. If Indian animation films have good content along with good visuals and are marketed well just like any other genre, they have the potential to do well at the box office.
We like to believe that our audience has evolved but that is only partially true. Our audience has evolved as far as content goes but when it comes to animation films, they would rather watch a Hollywood movie than a Hindi film. Unfortunately, Indians associate animation with children’s films. A good example to the contrary was The Jungle Book, which cut across age groups. Of course, let’s not forget that the movie had a desi connect and our industry thinks of animation as cartoons and hence doesn’t make films of this genre.
Chhota Bheem is one example of how successful an animation franchise can be. But if Hollywood makes animation films which don’t have a specific target audience but thinks of the audience as a whole, why do Indian filmmakers make animation films with a target audience in mind?