Animation Industry can sustain only if we start telling original stories using animation: Suresh Eriyat
Suresh Eriyat, leading animator and ad film maker, Founder of Studio Eeksaurus in a chit-chat with India IT News Editor Sajeev Kumar.
- What is the prominence of animation and VFX in the advertising industry?
Animation in Advertising industry is still a largely unexplored terrain. Even though there have been massive success stories with animation oriented campaigns ( be it Zoozoos- even though shot live, the story telling mode is animated, Amaron Battery ads, ICICI Chintamani ads), the taboo that animation is for kids is something that keeps the companies as well as ad agencies , quite at a distance from exploring animation. Internationally, speaking with my experience, Animation is really Big and there too the no: of animated ads compared to live shot ads would be considerably lesser due to the time and heavy cost behind the production. VFX on the other hand is not a medium of storytelling and it helps enhancing regular live action films, so the prominence of VFX is much more than animation since VFX is almost like a necessity in every film.
- What are the challenges animation industry is facing in India?
With the outsourced model of animation that is flourishing currently in India, we are only developing technical skills for hire and these work volumes come to India only because of price advantage the customers are getting, as well as the English communication skills we have. If any entity that comes up to mark with both these factors India could lose out on these job works. As we know China is capable of producing everything including animation, cheaper than us. And they are learning English much faster than we can imagine!!!
The other challenge is the lack of proper Animation film making educational courses. Except for NID and IDC there are hardly any institutes that can train kids in serious animation. Most of the institutes that are popular and common teach just the software and not the skills. And there are so many such schools mushrooming around. I recently heard that Animation Education business is much bigger than the Animation Production business in India!!! That is a cruel irony, right?
- How do you think we can address this and turn it to our advantage
To sustain ourselves the only way is to tell stories using animation to our younger audience. We are a young country with almost 60% of our population being under 35 years of age or so. If we make endearing films for them we are investing in creating a savvy audience for animation. Once we have our own population as our audience we don’t need to look at import/export avenues as the only source of animation work for us.
- India has a scope for orginal animation content yet we aren’t able to create our own IP, why is that?
As long as the guys in this business are interested in making money from the jobs outsourced to India, we would not have much movement on the original content development side. There are very few people who are interested and oriented towards animated storytelling. There is no body or organization that would be able fund/support the animation film directors to make the animated films or distribute them.
The biggest hurdle has been to get good animation storywriters, especially Indians. So the stories are there but they are not yet animatable as they are not adapted to the animation medium. And we lack experience in making the animated films. Now that is a real chicken and egg situation!!!
- Where do you see the animation industry by 2020 in India?
Things are improving. Chota Bheem was a success.. I hear Motu Patlu on Nick also is also popular. But these according to me are average products. Our kids are so hungry for Indian content that they are lapping it up anyway. They even love Japanese content that were made in 1970s recycled at very cheap rate to India. Unless we give them something really better than the Japanese recycled series (Doraemon, Shin Chan etc) that they see now, we will lose an entire audience to Japanese animation. I can see very of few of us trying to create features, series etc.. Hopefully we should be much better off by 2020. It takes just one good animation film to change the perception of animation in this country. Hopefully we should have that game changing one by 2020!!
- Movies like Kochadiyaan, Bahubali, etc have exposed VFX in a great way to the Indians, how do you see this turning into a huge employment opportunity in the coming years
Kochadiyaan was a failure. Even the presence and support of Rajnikant and other big names like Rahman could not save a bad film. I am happy that people can discriminate good content vs bad and not get blinded by star power. And Bahubali’s success shows the success of good content, dedication and hard work. Bahubali is an out and out VFX film and cannot be considered as an animated film. People still confuse VFX with Animation like I mentioned before.
VFX, as an industry can sometimes create huge employment opportunities. But if the companies don’t collaborate with each other it can be a problem. Because VFX industry has a more challenging future even though it looks promising on paper. VFX is a necessity in all films so they coexist with regular live action films. But looking at Rhythm and Hues that had to shut down after a thumping Oscar success for Life of Pi, I don’t know what is in store for the VFX companies.. It is best if they all collaborate and work like how it happens in the South of India, rather than trying to create one’s own VFX empire. We have seen several big banner VFX companies sprouting in Mumbai but all of them work independently without any collaboration, this results in poaching, high attrition and low retain-ship of talented people hence resulting in constant HR crunch and stuff.. Rather than improving quality of work and efficiency levels they have to keep worrying about retaining and retraining people all the time.. They keep shutting down mainly due to this fierce and neck to neck competition.
- The animation field in India has a lot of Malayalis in the forefront, why is this so, and what opportunities can Kerala as a State utilize from this industry?
Malayalis have been in the foreground in almost all areas of film making and visual media nationally and now internationally. In the film industry most of the well known and respected technical experts are Malayalis. Who can forget Resul who won the first ever Oscar for Sound Design!! Today Sound Design is widely acknowledged and respected due to his efforts. Rahman ( Music), Mohanan ( Director of Photography), Rajeev menon, Sanu ( Camera) are a few of the exponents who are well known in their own fields..
However as a state, we have a culture where we always appreciate and yearn for what we don’t have and probably if they were residents of Kerala, they would have got much lesser scope to exhibit their talent and come out the way they have, excelling at both national and international levels. Because back home in Kerala things work differently and people respond with a lot of cynicism to anything radical. Of course we don’t have a conducive commercial environment that would encourage such art forms like Mumbai. If I had an opportunity to work on any Kerala oriented program I would jump at it. The first ever job offer that I received was from CDIT to set up a multimedia department for the government, but due to some political scenario changes they revoked my appointment and I had to eventually go to Mumbai. Had I been in Kerala since then probably I could have brought about a better change in the animation film world than what I have achieved now or perhaps not!