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    "We just provide cheap labor for Hollywood animation" - Soumitra Ranade (Part II)

    [Interview by Joginder Tuteja]
    Monday, June 30, 2008

    Did you always think of turning a film maker?

    There is this running joke in our house. My mother is a novelist, my father is an architect, and my brother is a painter/designer. My brother-in-law is a playwright. What other options did I have? I had to be a filmmaker!!

    But seriously, I started thinking of being a filmmaker when my father bought a Super-8 camera in Afghanistan.. The whole family was making home movies. We would have to send the 4 mins spools to Germany for processing. Sometimes we had to wait for months to see what we had shot. The wait was killing…but finally when the spools arrived….! And when we saw the footage on our projector! Man ! I think subconsciously that's when I decided to be a filmmaker.

    Then when I came to Mumbai to join JJ School of Arts, I saw three films that changed my life. I saw Uski Roti by Mani Kaul, Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai? By Saeed Mirza and Breathless by Goddard. I was sure then I decided.

    How was your International Experience?

    I don't have too much of international experience. Basically some film festivals where my films have been shown. Hiroshima, Berlin, London, New York, LA, Oberhausen and so on. I have produced a couple of animation films for Channel 4, London. These were directed by my wife Shilpa.

    You are a photographer as well and have had a few exhibitions in the 90s. Did you stop photography?

    I don't take pictures to show a happening or an incident or a 'slice of life'. Photography for me is one of the purest art forms. Like painting or poetry. I continue to take pictures even today. I usually shoot one or two subjects for a long-long time - months, even years. Having an exhibition is not the purpose of these photographs. Maybe I will exhibit them one day. Maybe I never will. But I will continue to take pictures.

    You have 2 films in hand Alibaba-the 41 thieves & friends forever. Comment?

    Friends Forever is about an animated toy by the name of Zampano who plays the role of a cupid between Hrishita Bhatt and Ashmit Patel. It's a very simple film aimed at the pre-teen/teen audiences. Usually animated films are aimed at children and they are fantasy-adventures. This one is a sweet love story. For the execution of Zampano we used the Motion Capture technology (for the first time in an Indian film) which at that time was not available in India. So we did it in Malaysia.

    Alibaba and 41 Thieves is a modern version of the famous Arabian Nights tale. It's about a Mumbai kid getting caught in the Alibaba story and his adventures with the characters from that story. It's a fully 3D animated roller coaster ride. This film too uses the Motion Capture technology, but this time an Indian studio (Accel Studios from Chennai) is executing the animation.

    The voice cast for the film includes John Abraham, Atul Kulkarni, Ashutosh Rana, Saurabh Shukla, Raza Muraad, Manoj Tiwary etc. Its produced by UTV.

    As a person how is Soumitra Ranade?

    Difficult to answer this question but from what I gather from others around me…I am supposed to be full of fun. There is never a dull moment in my work environment. I feel it is criminal to waste time and money while involved in any project. I am a meticulous planner – I am always well prepared before any shoot or film related activity. During my working hours I give more than 100%. I switch off completely after work and all my attention is for my family, friends and having fun.

    Why in your film friends Forever you thought of taking a human only for animated character too.

    A human toy always seems friendlier, approachable and lovable than any creature. He genuinely speaks in our language and understands human emotions. A stuffed toy kind of look is far too cute and cuddly…I find that a bit revolting. Other weird or exotic creatures lack the emotional quotient. They are fine for an action adventure. Zampano is apt for this kind of a love story. He is a dude, has an attitude and is real rock star.

    So many times we do job work for Hollywood Animations films. Why can't we create Cartoons of same standards for Hindi films also?

    We have to understand the dynamics of the Indian animation industry. When we say we execute international quality animation for Hollywood we have to recognize that we don't really 'create' animation. We simply execute what has been given to us. That, I think is equivalent to labour. We are just providing cheap labour. To create indigenous animation of international standards, we need to have the entire set up of producers who have the faith in this genre, writers who can write great animation scripts, designers who can visualize a film with our characters, locations and our ethos. We need directors who understand the medium to stretch it to its fullest. This is already happening. In the next few years you will see at least 5 films that stand up to these so called international standards.

    When I start a film, I have absolutely no intentions of matching the international standards. I am making films for Indians with Indian budgets and with Indian aesthetics. I have always worked with a team that has no experience of feature films of these kinds. In fact I must be the only filmmaker in India who is on to his third animation/VFX film. We learn as we go along. I made Jajantaram Mamantaram in 2003. Some idiotic critics immediately compared it to Harry Potter. The audience loved the film. Even after 5 years, in these times when even a few weeks is considered to be a long run, it is still very much alive and kicking in children's consciousness. That's important for me - to make an emotional connection with the audience. Technology be damned.

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