Interviu: Gitanjali Rao

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Starting with this year's edition, Anim'est will strive to award it's favourite animators. One of the first and most interesting is Gitanjali Rao. This Indian filmmaker won the Jury's Grand Prize with her short, The Printed Rainbow.


Those who've seen the short undoubtedly want to know more about the person behind it and those who haven't but still have an interest in animation will probably want to read on, since this interview gives us a glimpse in the mind of an artist who uses animation to tell a story. And we all love stories.

Well I loved The printed rainbow. It was melancholic and uplifting all at the same time. What I liked most about it is that it communicated with the audience emotionally. Was that something you strived for?

Thank you very much! Yes communicating through emotions has been my preoccupation for a while now. Especially since I was making a film without using words, emotions is what I wanted to invoke the most when telling a story visually. Languages differ from country to country and in India even in the different states. But I have realised when it comes to emotions, we all speak the same language. So it was a process of discovery for me to make this film evoke emotions in the audience.

What would you say makes an animated short film really memorable? Unique animation or a truly original story?

I think a truly original story is almost impossible to write. But if the 'telling' of the story, is original, it definitely makes the film memorable. To me what's more important is the style of telling the story, not just the style of animation. Unique animation style alone cannot make it memorable I think.

In The printed rainbow, the old lady goes on a series of trips. Is there a hidden meaning in the order of these short dream-like journeys? The jungle then the palace then driving a truck...

Well no, there is no hidden meaning in the order of the dreams. For me the trips just needed to be very different in spirit from each other. Nothing else really.

One of my favorite segments is the one that takes place in the palace. Also, the Indian matchboxes have traditional Indian folk art imagery. I know the movie is about life and death but it also feels like a tribute to Indian culture. Was this one of your goals also? To let the audience experience a little bit of your heritage?

I am very inspired by Indian traditional and folk art. I also feel it does not get as much exposure as does the Indian contemporary art. This film is definitely a tribute to those unnamed artists who define Indian art and culture of artistry. And yes, I did want the audience to feel as though they were on a trip to Indian when watching the film. (The palace sequence is the one that took the longest time to execute, I was honestly cursing myself for using the miniature style of painting with so much detail, but when it was finished, I forgot all the hard work, because everyone seems to really like that scene)

How do you feel about The printed rainbow's general reception? Did you expect it to be well received? And how DO you feel about awards?

I am still surprised about the amazing reception the film has received! I never dreamed about such reception. The awards too still take me by surprise. I have never formally learn film making or animation, so the fact that people rate the film highly is still very new to me.

What can you tell me about the animation industry in India. You've worked on lots of advertising projects. Obviously it's a different experience from working on your own material, but I'd like to know how the process goes.

The animation industry in India is very young. I joined it thirteen years back when still in its very nascent stage. There were just 3 or 4 studios in the country making bits of animation for commercials. Then the economic globalisation created a boom in the market and we found ourselves doing outsourced animation work for the US and other countries. A lot of animation sweat shops sprang up in the late nineties. Only last year did the first entirely Indian animation feature film get a release and it was a success so a lot of producers have suddenly got interested in making animation feature.

However, we can boast of only one good animation school in the country which teaches the basics of 2D animation. The rest are all into 3D. Also the American influence is very strong in the work here. I did animation for commercials for the last thirteen years, four years back I started directing, storyboarding, character design and animation by myself for ad agencies as well as production houses. There has been a growing requirement for animation for commercials and it is also a good income to be able to spend it on my own films. But honestly, I do it only for the money. It is never half as pleasurable as doing your own film.

Do you enjoy the freedom of working on your own material? What are some of the obstacles you normally encounter when trying to get a project underway?

Yes, I definitely enjoy working on my own material. Money has always been a problem. No matter how good your project may be, if it is a short, its nearly impossible to find funding in India. Our government also does not support personal animation shorts. Besides we do not have a film commission that can assist us in sending our films for festivals. It is almost an independent, individual effort all along.

But since animation can be singly handled without the immediate need for money, it is always a possibility to make a film when you find the time and hope somebody will invest some money when the film is completing. Or else there are always friends who will help you with post production free of cost!

How did you feel working on Orange back in 2002 and what did you change (if anything) when you worked on "The Printed Rainbow"?

Orange was more of an experiment than a film. I learned exactly what mistakes not to repeat after making Orange. I learned the importance of story telling and that was my key reason to make 'Printed Rainbow'. I think Orange was more of a preparation for me to push myself into learning the basics of story telling and film making which I think Orange lacks and Printed rainbow has.

Do you plan on making a feature length film sometime in the future? While we're on the subject, what are you working on now?

I have just started work on a next film which is a full length feature. I think it is still too early for me but I have found a producer who has more faith in my capabilities. So I am right now revising the script and looking out for 2D animators to form a team to execute the film in the next two years. But shorts is my first love and I hope to be able to get back to it sometime soon in life.

Any words of advice for a young struggling animator? :)

Don't ever give up. Hard work always pays. And this is one field where you cannot escape from hard work.I have discovered that the longer it takes, the sweeter is the reward. And like I said, if, not having any money cannot stop an animator from making a film, nothing else can!

3 comentarii

Interviu: Gitanjali Rao
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Interviu: Gitanjali Rao
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So far so good

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Interviu: Gitanjali Rao
#3 -

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