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Rat-at-animation: A reflection on Indian animation industry

Although the rest of the world would like to dispute this fact too, we Indians had a different take on animals. Rat was the vehicle of the Indian deity, Ganesha while it was an ominous carrier of plague to the west. The first blow to this was done when Jerry and Mickey together proved themselves world’s classic hits, thanks to animation. Pixar through Ratatoille gave the world another (perhaps the best) rocking rodent hero Remy. Telling the story of a rat (Remy) who is passionate about becoming a cook in a decidedly rodent-phobic society, Ratatouille created a genre of its own. This would be a vantage point to look at the booming Indian animation industry- its hopes and hurdles.

The surveys and studies show that India is the most preferred, and preferably the best, animation outsourcing destination. Hard to believe it may be, parts of Hollywood movies and commercials we marvel at are born in the studios of Chennai, Bangalore or Mumbai. Even harder it would be then to believe that we never had a rocking animation movie. Whenever we had some, even the latest Bal Ganesha painfully not being an exception, they were confined to kid’s sections and cartoon channels. Out of the thousands of theatres, the doors of none were open to those animated movies. The Indian parents who go to national market would ask for either Shrek or Lion king or Finding Nemo to amuse their kids. Shrek series were rocking in theatres abroad with families (not just kids) dying to watch it. Finding Nemo, the Oscar winning animation hit, was labeled as “the best family movie”. Even parents are reported to have confessed that they went into theatres again and again without their kids to watch Finding Nemo.

Then we have the million dollar question- why do we never have such a stunningly rocking animation movie? The primary impulse would be to say “because we don’t have a Pixar or a Dreamworks here”. Convincing this answer could be, but there of course are more to it.

Indeed we do have animation production houses that can create special effect animation that comes as chunks of a full fledged movie. Our production houses do not have the technical expertise to produce a full fledged animation movie. Thinking of Indian animation production houses, we have neither brands nor any colossal figures (though we have hundreds of potential figures). The reason we lack in technical expertise can’t be blamed on money alone. The animation= cartoon equation is something that gives a fright to those who are willing to invest on infrastructure. For the Indian audience, animation is something that is for kids and that should be watched on cartoon channels. This not my cup of tea attitude stems from the content the movies deal with. Ratatouille is a scathing criticism on French intellectual society while Finding Nemo played before us the intensity of familial love and friendship. The depth of the storylines of those rocking hits played major part in driving the audience to the theaters.

It will be the rise of a new era in entertainment when a rat (for that matter any thing) unleash a change at Indian animation- a

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