Exploring Award-Winning Animation, Storytelling, and the Future of Indian Animation
In a recent interview, Suresh Eriyat, the founder and director of Studio Eeksaurus, and Adithi Krishnadas, the director of the National Award-winning animation film “Kandittund!,” shed light on their creative journey and the challenges faced by the animation industry in India.
Kandittund! – A Nostalgic Tale
At the 69th National Film Awards 2023, Studio Eeksaurus was honored with the Best Animation Short award for “Kandittund!” Directed by Adithi Krishnadas and produced by Studio Eeksaurus, the film is a heartwarming portrayal of the stories that Suresh Eriyat’s father, PNK Panicker, used to narrate during his childhood. Eriyat aimed to revive the tradition of storytelling passed down by grandparents and present it in a contemporary context for today’s youth.
Eriyat’s father’s stories were deeply ingrained in his reality, with vivid descriptions of supernatural creatures. It was only later in life that Eriyat recognized his father’s unique storytelling talent and decided to immortalize his stories in film. The project began in 2015 when Eriyat recorded his father’s stories in a Q&A format. Initially, the idea was to incorporate live action with animated characters representing the supernatural beings, but it wasn’t until Adithi Krishnadas joined the project in 2019 that the vision took shape as a full-fledged animation.
Visualizing the Stories
The film’s visual style was carefully chosen to resemble a comic book story, combining staging, drama, humor, and a believable world. The stories carried an underlying humor, often stemming from Mr. Panicker narrating ghost stories as if he had personally encountered them, only to later correct himself. This humorous approach influenced the visual portrayal of the situations and the design of the ghosts. The decision to use black and white added to the film’s nocturnal and supernatural ambiance.
The Role of Sound
Sound played a pivotal role in bringing the animated world to life. Suresh Eriyat emphasized that in animation, sound often contributes more than 50 percent to the overall impact compared to visuals. The film’s music was also a crucial element, requiring the use of authentic folk drums and instruments to create an immersive animated world. Resul Pookutty, an Academy Award-winning sound designer, collaborated on the project, and it took months to fine-tune the soundtrack to perfection. Eriyat expressed his gratitude for Resul’s talent and patience in bringing the audio to life.
Eeksaurus’ Creative Journey
Suresh Eriyat shared his personal journey into the world of animation. He emphasized his background in arts and crafts and his design education, which led him to explore the creative realm of animation. Eriyat’s journey began in Kerala, and he was fortunate to be selected for a 5-year MDes program at the National Institute of Design (NID). It was during his time at NID that he was affectionately nicknamed ‘Eeks!’ by senior students, leading to the birth of Studio Eeksaurus.
After parting ways with Famous Studios in 2009, where he co-founded Famous House of Animation, Eriyat established Eeksaurus with a vision to pursue various forms of creative expression. He shared that his choice of animation was driven by the freedom it offered to create stories from imagination or personal experiences. While he no longer physically animates, he has collaborated with talented animators and artists to build an impressive body of work.
Awards and Recognition
Eeksaurus has garnered numerous awards and accolades over the years, with the ANNECY Cristal for Best Animated Film in the Commissioned Films Category holding a special place. Eriyat highlighted that this recognition was on par with winning an Oscar for animation. The studio’s films have also received acclaim at prestigious international festivals, including Cannes Lions, Clio, D&AD, Asia Pacific Adfest, and more. Eriyat cherished the invitation from the Ghibli Museum to present their film “Tokri,” a dream come true moment.
Impactful Projects – Fisherwoman and Tuk Tuk and Tokri
Two of Eeksaurus’ award-winning projects, “Fisherwoman and Tuk Tuk” (FWTT) and “Tokri,” were self-funded initiatives. Eriyat conceived these stories based on his experiences in and around Mumbai, aiming to bring local stories to the Indian audience through exceptional craftsmanship and innovative animation techniques. Both films received warm reception on YouTube, garnering millions of views despite not fitting the conventional “funny” cartoon label often associated with Indian animation.
Eriyat spoke about Studio Eeksaurus’ intent to tell stories without being confined to a specific medium. Their approach is to use the design process to find the best way to convey a story’s essence. Eriyat expressed a desire to collaborate with various art forms, emphasizing the importance of art and its positive impact on the world. He hopes to popularize animated storytelling, especially by showcasing local stories in visually compelling ways.
Eeksaurus is actively mentoring and supporting young animation filmmakers to further their vision and cultivate a strong fan following for Indian animation akin to the Japanese anime phenomenon.
Challenges in the Animation Industry
Suresh Eriyat pointed out several challenges faced by the animation industry in India. One significant issue is the misconception that animation is primarily a technical skill, often equated with software proficiency. Many Indian animation studios prioritize international projects that offer lower costs, leading to substantial outsourcing from abroad. Additionally, animation is often overshadowed by VFX in the Indian film industry, with some even confusing the two.
The Future of Hand-Drawn Animation and Embracing Technology
Eriyat believes that hand-drawn and handmade animations are irreplaceable, provided artists continue to practice and cherish the craft. While technological advancements like AI are changing the landscape, they are seen as tools to enhance creativity rather than replace human touch.
Advice for Aspiring Animators
Eriyat’s advice to aspiring animators is to persevere and stay grounded while pursuing their passion. There is no instant formula for success, but dedication and commitment remain essential for anyone aspiring to excel in animation.
Animation’s Recognition at a National Level
Eriyat acknowledged that animation in India has not received the recognition it deserves on a national level. He emphasized the need for Indian animation to tell local stories that resonate with Indian audiences to change this perception. Currently, the industry often emulates Western success stories rather than forging its unique identity.
In conclusion, Suresh Eriyat and Adithi Krishnadas shared insights into their creative journey and the challenges facing the animation industry in India. They highlighted the importance of storytelling, visual aesthetics, and sound in animation, along with their commitment to promoting Indian animation on a global scale. Despite challenges, their passion for the medium and dedication to quality storytelling shine through in their work.