Thanks to the whopping hit Hanuman, the Gods are enjoying a resurrection on the silver screen. So I’m in Hyderabad in search of Krishna. The country’s cyber capital is home to an animation firm called Colourchips who are creating an animated version of baby Krishna’s life.
At the Colourchips office, I encounter over 100 artists huddled over their desks, feverishly transforming blank paper into artwork for various characters. Their desks and the adjoining walls are stacked with inspirational art, ranging from deer figurines to voluptuous babes and bad-ass villains straight out of X-rated cartoons.
I remark about the frenzied pace of the work and Colourchips Managing Director (M.D.), Sudhish Rambhotla, explains, “We are following the Disney model where everything is hand-drawn. Bapu (of Woh Saat Din fame), who is both a filmmaker and a renowned painter, helms Krishna. He has given rise to a whole new style of painting technique known as the Bapu School. This technique is the point of reference for the venture.”
The monster attraction of Krishna will be the Kalia-mardan sequence where Krishna vanquishes the multi-headed giant snake. Bapu explains, “We are working hard to make this as dramatic as possible. It’s an action scene of epic proportions and is going to need lots and lots of frames which should all assimilate seamlessly so that the waves look real. We are also planning an underwater fight sequence, where the snake tries to kill Krishna but the Lord overcomes it.”
While flipping through their artwork, I notice that the villains look like they’re straight out of Japanese Manga graphic novels. “Well, I wanted to experiment with the rakshasha form. Our primary audience consists of children. Keeping them in mind, I have given different forms to the asuras,” explains Bapu.
Radha is strangely missing from the reference drawings and I draw the director’s attention to this glaring omission. “But ours is a children’s film,” says Bapu all too seriously. “We can’t show the Radha-Krishna romance.” Yeah, right. Children see death and mayhem every time they turn on the television but the greatest love story ever told is suddenly too explicit. “Well, even in our sacred texts Radha isn’t as closely associated with Krishna as some North Indian saint poets would have us believe,” he defends his stance, and then adds, “Perhaps, if the film does well, than we can make a sequel about his teenage years. I’m sure Radha will have a large role to play in such a scenario.”
Animation is hugely expensive and one reason why India lags behind on this front is that we simply don’t have the money. I quiz Sudhish Rambhotla about his financial equation and he says, “The money comes from our BPO operations which employ more than 600 people.” Their main products include the Legend of the Dragon that they developed for the German BKN group. They are developing another property for them called Zorro: Generation Z, which is a modern take on the legend of Zorro. A serial on the life of wunderkind Mozart called Little Amadeus for Penta TV in Germany is also in the pipeline.
The profit margin must be quite high because apart from animation, Rambhotla is also producing a live-action film called Mukhbir directed by Mani Shankar. This surely must be the over-hyped Sammir Dattani’s 10th re-launch. Probably being from Hyderabad, they didn’t know this little nugget. Rambhotla valiantly defends his choice. “We did a test shoot and only then did we select Sammir.” After giving two flops in a row, Mani Shankar isn’t exactly hot property right now. I mention this and the M.D. hastens to clarify. “It is not as if Mani and Sammir are our only options. We are also talking to people like Madhur Bhandarkar and Nagesh Kukunoor. In fact, our next venture, called Saaz, a period musical, is being directed by Narren Aditya while A.R. Rahman will compose the music. These are early days for us. We don’t want to run before we learn to walk.”
Mumbai beckons, but before leaving, an exploration of the city of nawabs and a taste of the famous Hyderabadi biryani is a must. I bid adieu to my hosts and embark on a brand new gourmet adventure.
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