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Animation in the Age of Art & Tech

admin   July 20, 2020

Managing Paperboat in COVID-19 environment. Interview with Soutmitra Ranade, Co-Founder and Chairman Paperboat Design Studios

How did Paperboat adapt in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic?

This is a huge humanitarian crisis. Millions of people all over the world are going through perhaps the worst times of their lives. The element of fear also plays a terrifying role – how long will this last? Am I or my family safe? Are our jobs secure? Will there be a cut in our salaries?

These of course are the immediate fears. Then there are of course the larger fears– Where is this world heading to? What have we done with it? Is it destroyed beyond repair? Will our children always have to wear masks all their lives? Are we losing control over our lives?

But right now, very honestly, my priority is the 250 people who work with us in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. They and their families. So about 1500 people. We are responsible for them and have to ensure that at least these 1500 people have a comparatively easier life. Then each one also has dependents. They have their maids and their vegetable vendors etc. So it’s extremely important that we run our studio efficiently even in these terrible times, because it impacts so many people.

And since we don’t know yet when this is going to end, we must take a deep breath and take the calamity on the chin. Two days before the first lockdown was announced in March, we anticipated it and shifted all the equipment to people’s homes so that they could work from there. All the employees have co-operated with us. Believe me it’s been a big challenge but we have done well for the first four months. And I am sure we will get through these tough times.

Just before COVID-19 struck, Paperboat had planned to set up studio in Canada, Toronto…

Yes. Our Canada plans got delayed due to the pandemic but I feel that is nothing as compared to what so many had to suffer. I mean, we have to be realistic. This is a world crisis and honestly it doesn’t really matter if a studio gets delayed in some place. We have to see things in the larger context. There are more urgent matters that the world needs to concentrate upon right now. The delay has been disappointing but we are sure our Canadian studio will take off as soon as the pandemic is behind us.

What are the focus areas of Paperboat Studios in Canada?

Our Canadian studio is called UtSide Inc. and focuses on creating a synergy between art and technology and we want to develop ideas in various medias such as animated films, apps, VR/AI, physical interactive experiences etc. Our vision is to empower individuals in their formative years. We aspire to create worldwide communities that bridge geographical, linguistic, sociocultural gaps and strive for a world that is inclusive, compassionate and joyous. We have identified many projects and the work on them would begin hopefully by the end of the year.

Now that you have set up studio in Toronto, do you look at co-production opportunities? Canada has signed the largest number of co-production Treaties in the world. How do you see collaboration in this time of crisis?

It’s always a crisis that either brings people together or tears them apart. We as a world community need to take a decision which way we want to go. For us, these co-production treaties are not just documents or agreements between two governments. It is a partnership between two people, two cultures, two languages, two world views. And this union can be very exciting.

In a co-production project it’s the artists from one country working with artists from another country. I am very keen that my next project – an animated feature film based on Tagore’s Kabuliwala is not just an Indo-Canadian co-production. But we would like to work with artists from all over the sub-continent. Imagine a situation where the musicians are from Afghanistan, artists, designers, animators, voice actors from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Tagore after all belonged to the entire subcontinent. A collaborative film of this kind on Kabuliwala would be a true salute to the great man’s vision.

How do you plan to scale up Paperboat studios?

It’s very easy for us to go from 250 to 500. But that’s not the kind of scaling we want to achieve. For us the primary scale up would not be in numbers but in a constant pursuit of quality. With the three films that we have done recently we have shown to the world that we can do it in India. We want to break this perception about Indian animation being shoddy and low standard. If we concentrate on quality, and keep delivering path-breaking animation year after year, the scaling up will happen automatically. Afterall, everyone wants an artistic and efficient animation studio, even people from Europe and North America. We want them to come to us with great stories and we can create the animated world for them.

What are the current moves you are making for Paperboat’s journey to future?

Up until now, me, Aashish and Mayank have brought Paperboat to this stage without a single rupee of outside investment. We have put systems in place, have a very good client base, and are working for the top TV channels. As we now start work on our own IPs, we need investments. Big dreams need big investments and these investments may not always be counted in monetary terms. We are also looking for collaborations, partnerships and joint-ventures.

How has been the client response during the period? Do you see surge in pipeline?

Our clients are well aware of the situation and although they have their own pressures, which may or may not be in sync with our pressures but they all have reacted most positively to all our problems. We are talking to each one of them very regularly and updating them of the immense pressure that our team is going through. Many employees have shifted to their villages since the cities are not very safe. There are different challenges there. Internet speeds are ridiculous at most places. It takes hours to upload/download a simple file. But all the clients have been extremely understanding, and supportive. Actually it’s also got to do with intent. If we start using this pandemic as an excuse for our inefficiency then they will obviously see that. If the problems are real and if we keep updating them regularly then there need not be any friction.

Do you see acceleration for animation, VFX, gaming business going forward as there are challenges in live shoots and these verticals can help in storytelling?

I feel traditionally, the Indian mindset has always been a bit fearful of technology. We don’t invest enough in it. Even big stars and producers tell us proudly that for such and such film they have got the experts from Hollywood: for prosthetics, for VFX, for CGI and so on. I think they should actually be ashamed of themselves to even say this. Why can’t they invest in creating the talent here in India? They have the resources, they have the money.

Our films have primarily been driven by the star system. When you have a big star in your film, you don’t even need a script, forget about VFX and animation! That’s the mind-set that we have. But the star system is dead now. Infact it’s been dead for a while but they have somehow kept it alive through PR which won’t last for too long anyways.

Then they will have to turn to VFX and animation to get the eye balls. So primarily we will have two kinds of films: the ones with great, hard hitting content and then big spectacles with huge amount of VFX and animation. As far as gaming goes, I honestly think that we still have a long way to go.

What are the opportunities you see during this period for the AVGC (Animation, Gaming, Visual Effects, Comics) sector in India? Also challenges?

I do think that the AVGC sector cannot be seen separately. The internet speeds that we have in India right now, the accessibility to technology, proper training institutes, and many other factors define our AVGC sector. It’s the entire ecosystem that matters. The government must recognise that this sector is a huge job creator. We must look at the taxation laws if we want to encourage this sector. I feel we have a huge opportunity. We have a vast young population that is willing to move towards this area as the traditional sectors like medicine and engineering etc., are beyond the reach of most people. Also, this is a very exciting world and the youth would naturally feel attracted towards it. We must make this movement easier for them.

You had expressed keenness in starting training and studio in Jammu & Kashmir?

Over the past many years we have had extremely talented youngsters from the valley, working with us at our studio in Mumbai. Unfortunately they had all done their animation courses from other parts of the country and it pained me that there is not a single good animation institute in the valley. It was a dream to start something there so that the locals don’t have to leave their wonderful environs to come and study and work in our rotten cities.

Animation is not just a medium of art, expression and entertainment but it also offers job opportunities in large numbers. With our institute in Kashmir, we also hope to start a branch of our studio, which will employ the artists graduating from the institute. The ultimate aim ofcourse is to produce animation films written, designed and directed by Kashmiri artists!

As a teenager in Kabul, I was witness to some of the most horrific armed struggles that the world has ever seen. In the following decades a most compassionate and loving people have been crushed to pulp and we don’t want Kashmir to go that way. I am sure art can heal.


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Cannes 2020 to Announce Festival Selection Lineup on June 3

admin   May 29, 2020

Festive de Cannes will announce its 2020 Official Selection films on June 3 in Paris.

Pierre Lescure, President of the Festival de Cannes, and Thierry Frémaux, the festival’s artistic director and General Delegate, will unveil films live Paris time 6 PM on Canal+, Cannes festival website and its social media accounts.

Some of the Cannes 2020 selections are likely to have market screening for buyers at the virtual Cannes Film Market from June 22-26. It is upto the discretion of the respective sales agents to give access for viewing during the market.

The curated film titles that will get Cannes 2020 official stamp of approval will release in cinema theatres and some film festivals (Venice, Toronto, San Sebastian, Busan, New York, Los Angeles among others) during this year.

Around 50 titiles are expected to be announced and film critics are guessing that Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria, Naomi Kawase’s Comes Morning and Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round will be part of the lineup.


India Stand No. 19 Get the Best Out of Toronto

admin   August 30, 2019

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has set up India Pavilion which will provide a platform to popularize Indian cinema in the overseas market and facilitate new business opportunities.

The objective behind the participation is to promote Indian films across linguistic cultural and regional diversity so as to forge an increasing number of international partnerships in the realms of distribution, production, filming in India, script development and technology, thereby accelerating the growth of film sector in India.

The Indian delegation, through various interactions, will promote ease of shooting films in India through Film Facilitation Office (FFO) that facilitates Single Window Clearance for film-makers and provides the platform for ‘film tourism’ in India. The delegation will showcase India as a post-production hub, promote collaborations for films with international production houses and encourage Indian Panorama Films for sales and syndication.

India has its advantage at every filmmaking process. It has a strong domestic film industry across the country. More than anything else, India has access to world class technicians and equipment; amazing choice of locations to shoot any type of film. Skilled professionals are available across the country. India is gearing up for the 50th edition of International Film Festival Of India, Goa from 20 November to 28 November 2019.

The market potential for Indian content in Toronto is huge because of the strong presence of the Indian diaspora and great interest in Indian Cinema. India-Canada are in a co-production treaty and the delegation will explore opportunities to work on co-producing films with Canada.

With 1500 feature films produced in the country, more than 900 television channels, 600 million internet users, 400 million smart phone users, India’s vibrant media and entertainment (M&E) industry provides attractive growth opportunities for global corporations.


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Indian Films At Toronto a Sparkling Quartet

admin   August 29, 2019

India’s ‘fabulous four’ in the 44th Toronto International Film Festival represent exciting and distinct cinematic voices. These films, three of which will be world premiering in TIFF, have compelling stories, employing methods that stem from unique sensibilities. At one end
is the story of a real-life urban couple learning life lessons from a terminally ill but spirited daughter (Shonali Bose’s The Sky is Pink) and at the other a tale of a buffalo that escapes from its butcher-owner and sparks a frenzy in a small town in Kerala (Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikattu),
The other two Indian films present divergent takes on Mumbai: Gitanjali Rao’s animated feature Bombay Rose and Geetu Mohandas’ gritty yet life-affirming drama Moothon (The Elder One).

It is a strong year in TIFF for Indian female directors. Three of the titles in this quartet have been directed by women. That apart, Priyanka Chopra, who toplines the cast of The Sky is Pink, is one of the four Indian ambassadors of TIFF’s ‘Share Her Journey’ campaign, which is aimed
at promoting gender parity in the movie industry both in front of and behind the camera. The other three are filmmakers Mira Nair, Deepa Mehta and Rima Das. Das’s last two films (Village Rockstars and Bulbul Can Sing) premiered in TIFF. She will be attending the festival this year too, to take part in the campaign launched in 2017, the year she debuted here.

THE SKY IS PINK by Shonali Bose

THE SKY IS PINK by Shonali Bose

Cast: Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Farhan Akhtar, Zaira Wasim, Rohit Saraf
Producer(s): Ronnie Screwvala, Siddharth Roy Kapur

Shonali Bose’s The Sky is Pink, which also features Farhan Akhtar and Zaira Wasim in stellar roles, is part of the festival’s Gala Presentations. Bose is a TIFF veteran. Each of the three films that she has helmed has screened in North America’s premier festival.The Sky is Pink is scheduled for release on October 11, a month after its world premiere in TIFF on September 13.

The poignant film portrays 25 years in the life of a married couple whose relationship is depicted from the perspective of their just-deceased teenage daughter. It is inspired by the tragic true story of Aisha Chaudhary, who was diagnosed with severe immune-deficiency and had to battle through every day of her life for survival. But even as she counted her days, she never stopped living in the moment. She became a motivational speaker and wrote a book that was published a day before her death.

Bose’s first two films, Amu (2005) and Margarita with a Straw (2015), both critically acclaimed cinematic essays drawn from real life, also played in Toronto.

Shonali Bose

India | 2019 | Hindi WORLD PREMIERE 134 minutes

Director | Shonali Bose

Cinematography | Kartik Vijay, Nick Cooke, Andrew Litt, Andre Menezes, Ravi Varman

Editing | Manas Mittal

Executive Producers | Nilesh Maniyar, Deepak Gawade, John Penotti, Michael Hogan, Robert Friedland

Production Companies | Roy Kapur Films, RSVP, Ivanhoe Pictures, Purple Pebble Pictures

Production Designer | Aradhana Seth

Screenplay | Shonali Bose, Nilesh Maniyar

Sound |Anish John

Distributor | RSVP

BOMBAY ROSE by Gitanjali Rao

BOMBAY ROSE by Gitanjali Rao

Cast: Cayli Vivek Khare, Amit Deondi, Gargi Shitole, Makrand Deshpnde
Producer(s): Rohit Khattar, Anand Mahindra

At the other end of the India’s TIFF spectrum this year is Gitanjali Rao, a globally celebrated animation filmmaker who has carved her own niche in a nation where animated films are not only rare but are also usually seen as entertainment meant only for children. She employs the medium to tell complex, layered stories about her city and its people, especially those who need to retreat into dream worlds to escape the soul-destroying urban grind that they must inevitably undergo on a day-to-day basis.

Rao’s first feature, Bombay Rose, which has made TIFF’s Contemporary World Cinema cut, arrives in Toronto from Venice, where it was the opening film of the Critics Week. The film looks at street-dwellers who live on the margins of the megapolis. “I have always wanted to tell stories,” Rao says in her director’s note, “about the unsung heroes who live and love in Mumbai, never become success stories, yet their struggle for survival makes heroes out of them.” Bombay Rose is composed of frame-by-frame painted animation, a painstaking process that took all of two years.

Bombay Rose is only the second Indian animation film to screen in TIFF. In 2103, Shilpa Ranade’s Goopy Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya made it to the festival programme.

Gitanjali Rao

India, United Kingdom, Qatar, France, 2019 | Hindi NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE 93 minutes

Director | Gitanjali Rao

Editing |Gitanjali Rao

Executive Producers | Deborah Sathe, Tessa Inkelaar, Charlotte Uzu, Serge Lalou

Production Companies | Cinestaan Film Company, Les Films d’Ici

Animation Studio | Paperboat

Production Designer | Rupali Gatti

Screenplay | Gitanjali Rao

Sound | P.M. Satheesh

MOOTHON by Geetu Mohandas

MOOTHON by Geetu Mohandas

Cast: Nivin Pauly, Sobhita Dhulipala, Shashank Arora
Producer(s): Anurag Kashyap, Vinod Kumar, Ajay G. Rai, Alan McAlex

Mumbai also plays a key role in actress-turned-filmmaker Geetu Mohandas’ Malayalam-Hindi bilingual film, Moothon (The Elder One), which revolves around a 14-year-old Lakshadweep island boy, Mulla, who travels at great personal risk to the bustling city to look for his big brother, Akbar, armed only with a phone number. The film follows the parallel arcs of the two siblings while it focuses on the hope and despair that they have to grapple with in a city where life can be rough when the guards are down.

Although Mohandas is a TIFF first-timer, her maiden feature, Liar’s Dice (2013), had premiered in the Sundance Film Festival and was India’s official nomination for the Oscars.

Moothon, which has Nivin Pauly, Sobhita Dhulipala and Shashank Arora in key onscreen roles, is co-produced by Anurag Kashyap, who has also penned the Hindi dialogues of the film. For Kashyap, TIFF is a bit of an annual ritual. His last two films, Mukkabaaz and Manmarziyaan, were both in the festival.

Geetu Mohandas

India | 2019 Malayalam, Hindi WORLD PREMIERE 110 minutes

Director | Geetu Mohandas

Cinematography | Rajeev Ravi

Editing | Ajithkumar B., Kiran Das

Production Companies | JAR Pictures, Mini Studio

Production Designer | Abid T. P.

Screenplay | Geetu Mohandas

Sound | Kunal Sharma

Original Score | Sagar Desai

JALLIKATTU by Lijo Jose Pellissery

JALLIKATTU by Lijo Jose Pellissery

Cast: Antony Varghese, Vinayakan, Sabumon Abdusamad
Producer(s): O. Thomas Panicker

Lijo Jose Pellissery, one of the most exciting flag-bearers of the new Malayalam cinema, is in this year’s lineup with Jallikattu, based on a short story, Maoist, written by S. Hareesh. The maker of Angamaly Diaries and Ee.Ma.Yau focusses on a butcher’s buffalo that flees from his owner’s clutches on the eve of its planned slaughter. As the people of the town in Kerala’s Idukki district set out to recapture the animal, dormant animosities bubble to the surface and unleash unsettling violence. Like his previous two film, Lijo’s new outing blends heady energy with an unwavering sense of formal cinematic proportion.

Jallikattu – the title is derived from the ancient Tamil bull-running tradition that has sparked much debate in recent times – allows for a deep dive into the heart of a politically volatile state that, pretty much like the people in the story that the film narrates – are increasingly being divided along destructively emotive lines.

Lijo Jose Pellissery

India | 2019 Malayalam WORLD PREMIERE 91 minutes

Director | Lijo Jose Pellissery

Cinematography | Gireesh Gangadharan

Editing | Deepu Joseph

Production Company | Opus Penta

Production Designer | Gokul Das

Screenplay | S Hareesh, R Jayakumar

Sound | Renganath Ravee

Publicist | Opus Penta

Original Score | Prashant Pillai


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Priyanka Chopra’s The Sky is Pink Set to Premiere in 2019 Toronto Internaitonal Film Festival’s Gala Section

admin   July 24, 2019

Priyanka Chopra and Farhan Akhtar starring The Sky is Pink will have its world premiere in the Gala Section at the 44th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) beginning September 5. The Sky is Pink is directed by Shonali Bose and is based on the story of motivatioal speaker Aisha Chaudhary who had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis.

Toronto International Film Festival is the only International festival which has picked the maximum number of Indian films for screening in official selections.

The film is produced by Priyanka Chopra, Ronnie Screwvala and Sidddharth Roy Kapur. The Sky is Pink is one of the 18 Galas announced by TIFF on Tuesday. Dangal actress Zaira Wasim, who quit acting, plays the role of Aisha Chaudhary. Rohit Saraf is also a part of the starcast. Ronnie Screwvala produced Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota (The Man Who Feels No Pain) directed by Vasan Bala won the People’s Choice prize for best Midnight Madness section at the 43rd Toronto International Film Festival 2018.

The synopis of the film in the TIFF website states the following: A recently deceased teenage daughter narrates the story of her mother and father’s poignant, affecting, and inspiring romance, in this unexpectedly humorous love story from Shonali Bose, inspired by late Indian author Aisha Chaudhary and her family.

“What I love about India is that, it is the world’s most film passionate country in the world. You can talk to anyone in this country and everyone has got an opinion about films. This is not the case anywhere in the world. This is the cultural norm,” stated Cameron Bailiey, Co-Head of Toronto International Film Festival to Pickle during his Mumbai trip last year. Single handedly, Cameron Bailey has managed to get over 50 Indian filmmakers to showcase their work in global markets after screening their films in Toronto.

Shonali Bose’s Margarita With A Straw was selected in Toronto in 2014. The film Margarita With A Straw was a bittersweet drama about a woman with cerebral palsy. Shonali Bose has ploughed a lonely furrow as a filmmaker. Her debut feature, Amu, released in 2005, homed in on individuals affected by the 1984 anti-Sikhriots. She co-wrote Bedabrata Pain’s critically acclaimed Chittagong (2012), a dramatization of a significant chapter in India’s freedom struggle. For Margarita With A Straw, Bose cast Kalki Koechlin in a role that called for absolute commitment of time and energy. For both the director and the lead actress, the film has been unqualified artistic triumph.

Priyanka Chopra returns to Bollywood after three years and she was seen last in Jai Gangaajaal.The Sky is Pink is also Priyanka Chopra’s first Indian film project after she headed for Hollywood in 2016. Priyanka Chopra was the Guest of Honour at TIFF Soiree in 2017– a fund raiser in support of “Share Her Journey” campaign to support female voices in the cinema industries. Priyanka Chopra discussed about her career in and outside of the film industry during an onstage conversation moderated by Cameron Bailey.

Priyanka Chopra starring Mary Kom, directed by Omung Kumar was screened in Toronto in Special Presentations Section in 2014. Priyanka played India’s leading sporting icon in lead role as the gutsy boxer from the North East Indian state who rose from humble beginnings to the pinnacle in the world of women’s boxing.


Mira Nair Joins Toronto Platforms Jury

admin   August 23, 2018

Toronto International Film Festival has announced that Indian–American director Mira Nair has joined the 2018 Toronto Platform Prize Jury.

The award-winning filmmaker will select the winner of the Toronto Platform Prize along with the previously announced jurors, Hungarian existential master Béla Tarr and acclaimed South Korean director and novelist Lee Chang-dong.

“Mira Nair’s remarkable body of work makes her one of the most interesting and tenacious directors working today,” said TIFF Director & CEO Piers Handling, in a statement.

“From her important documentary work to her most recent award-winning titles, Mira has always shown a vision and passion that make her a perfect fit for this year’s Platform Jury. We are honoured that this September we will have the opportunity to host her and fellow jurors Béla Tarr and Lee Chang-dong.”

The Toronto Platform Prize, an award of $25,000 CAD, will be presented to the best film in the programme’s lineup at the Awards Ceremony on the last day of the Festival. Now in its fourth year, Platform is the Toronto International Film Festival’s juried section that champions risk-taking with a lineup of up to 12 works with high artistic merit and a bold directorial vision.

Mira Nair was born and raised in Rourkela, India, and went on to study at the University of Delhi and Harvard University. Her narrative feature debut, Salaam Bombay! (1988), won the Camera d’Or and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

A resourceful and determined independent filmmaker who casts unknowns alongside Hollywood stars, Nair has directed Mississippi Masala (1991), The Perez Family (1995), Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (1996), Hysterical Blindness (2002), Vanity Fair (2004), The Namesake (2006), Amelia (2009), and The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012). Her most recent film, Queen of Katwe, about a Ugandan girl with an aptitude for chess, stars Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo. Nair’s acclaimed film Monsoon Wedding (2001) was recently brought to the stage as a highly anticipated musical at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where it closed an extended, sold-out run this past summer. Nair will be directing the BBC’s forthcoming adaptation of A Suitable Boy, to be released in 2020.

Nair first attended TIFF (then the Festival of Festivals) in 1988, when Salaam Bombay! screened in Toronto. That year, she also participated in a Festival Industry panel on women in film.