Hailing from a business background gave Kushal Ruia a handle on the animation space. Ruia talks about animation films in India, what works, what doesn’t and much more
After my bachelor’s degree in Commerce, I joined my family business but that lasted for a short while. I realised animation is what I really wanted to do. So I went to Canada to study animation. That’s how my career in filmmaking began.
To begin with, I made some short films. I worked in a studio called Core Digital Pictures in Toronto, which was one of the biggest animation studios there. I worked on a TV series called Urban Vermin, which was my first project as an animator. After that, I made a couple of short films. Then I worked with Kireet Khurana (Director of Toonpur Ka Superrhero). I was doing several things at a time and was shuttling between Canada and India till I finally signed up with Amar Chitra Katha in India.
Not really. Before all this, I was to do a film called Green Blanket, which was to be backed by a big corporate house. I was on that film but after a few months they backed out and the film got shelved. And then Amar Chitra Katha happened and it’s been smooth sailing since then.
Sons Of Ram
Sons Of Ram is a famous Amar Chitra Katha comic so we knew we already had an audience for it. After that, I started exploring the subject to see what had been told and what had not. Sons Of Ram is not the quintessential Ramayana, which focuses on the battle between Ram and Ravan. At the end, there is a bit about Luv and Kush, so I have tried to focus on
Directing An Animation Film
An animation movie is extremely collaborative. It has to be done from scratch, purely with one’s imagination. So it’s difficult. As an animation film director, I have to know exactly what I want and how to work with my imagination.
Why Only Mythological Characters?
There are two-three reasons why we do mythological characters. One, mythological characters are in our DNA, they are part of our collective memory, you hear about them while growing up. The West had to come up with fiction because they didn’t have such stories. It’s all about how creatively you interpret these mythological characters. Also, animation films don’t have much of a budget because Indian economics don’t justify it. So producers usually think they don’t need an audience because people already know who they are. Now we just have to bring out best cinema. So, in a way, you save on promotion costs.
Second, a director of an animation film doesn’t have the advantage of learning from the weaknesses of his previous film. It will take some time to create a base of animated films in India. If you don’t watch a film, how will you know if it’s good or bad? This year, I believe we have had the maximum number of animation films releasing and each one doing well.
International Market Is Big
Indians don’t watch animated movies made in India whereas in the West, animation movies are really big. Second, we don’t have enough money to invest in animation films. It takes a lot of money. Second, people assume animation films are only for kids, which restricts the audience. So we need more awareness about Indian animation movies. But we are finally getting some appreciation in international circles.
TV V/s Films
I think TV is the only medium where we can promote our films. For example, when an Amar Chitra Katha character becomes famous on TV, the audience is aware of the character and so they watch the movie. So TV is not a threat. Watching a daily soap and watching your favourite character on the big screen is very different. But I have seen some totally new animation films which haven’t worked at the box office at all.
Shikari Shambu and then Supandi, both famous characters from Tinkle. And they are not mythological characters!