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The films of Isao Takahata

art and culture Updated: Nov 05, 2016 10:13 IST
Aparna Alluri
Aparna Alluri
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Japanese anime film, The Tale of the Princess of Kaguya was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2015 (Credit: Lightcube Film Society)

Fans of anime, Japanese animated films, are in for a treat. Starting Sunday, Delhi-based film club Lightcube will screen award-winning anime movies every Sunday through November at Perch, a hip wine-and-coffee bar in Vasant Vihar. It’s a six-film retrospective on Japanese filmmaker Isao Takahata’s acclaimed work.

First up is The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, an exquisitely drawn, languorous 2013 film based on a 10th century Japanese fable. It tells the story of a baby girl found inside a glowing bamboo shoot by a bamboo cutter who then raises her as his own.

Japanese pop culture is not alien to India. Manga, Japanese-style comics, have earned a following across the country. “Everybody talks about manga but nobody goes beyond that,” said Suraj Prasad, 28, who co-founded Lightcube. The retrospective, Prasad said, is an attempt to get all those fans together and start a conversation. Ligthcube has shown Japanese films earlier but this is the first time they are screening Takahata’s work.

The Japanese technique, known for striking drawings, is distinct from the American style, exemplified by Disney’s realism. Disney animation emphasises movement to imitate life down to the last detail, said Atul Sinha who teaches animation at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi. But anime, seeking to retain a scene’s artistry, relies on fewer images to animate a story.

Disney, Sinha said, has also stuck to linear stories until recently. But anime’s nuanced tales and dark themes have found an audience among adults and children.

Japanese anime filmmaker Isao Takahata is at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival. Takahata is globally acclaimed for his stunning and poignant films. (Photo by Maarten de Boer/Getty Images)

Why Takahata?

The 80-year-old filmmaker is unusual among his peers because, by his own admission, he doesn’t draw. Yet he is celebrated for his stunning and poignant films. His movies aren’t pacy and his career isn’t prolific. But, according to Lightcube members, his films show “a preference for depth over breadth.”

The retrospective will include his commercial successes - The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and Pom Poko were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and Best Foreign Language Film respectively.

Paul Grimault’s The King and The Mockingbird, touted as one of the greatest animated films, is also on the list. It’s often cited as a key influence by Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki - two of anime’s best-known directors who together founded Studio Ghibli, a hugely successful Japanese anime film studio.

At the final screening, Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies will follow Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro because of the films’ intertwined plots and shared production.

The Weeping Meadows: Films of Isao Takahata, Perch, 18 Basant Lok Market, Vasant Vihar, Starting November 6, 6 pm. Buy tickets here.

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