In the eight years since Dev (2004), Govind Nihalani has been working on his first animated feature. Kamlu Happy Happy, starring a baby camel from the deserts of Rajasthan, is gearing up for a global summer release. Nihalani is now in the final stages of talks with international distributors and says their response is positive.
“With a budget of around $4-5 million, it would be impossible to recover our costs from the Indian market alone. The only films that work in this genre are from Hollywood studios. That’s why Kamlu Happy Happy was made for the international market,” reasons the 71-year-old Padma Shri awardee who has written, directed and co-produced the film.
The story revolves around a group of friends — a camel, a bird, a shepherd boy and a princess — who hang around together. It’s the camel Kamlu’s dream to fly. Says Nihalani, “Unlike other animated films, this one is not drawn from history or mythology, nor is it a Tom And Jerry kind of a flick. It’s a dramatic, contemporary fable with references to our times and hopefully will cut through the barriers of class, colour, and country to appeal to everyone from five to 50. It’s a story about dreaming of the impossible and making it happen.”
Nihalani chose to make a baby camel the film’s hero because he’s originally from Rajasthan. “So far there’s been no animation film about a camel, so I decided to do it myself,” he says.
The film is in English with the dialogue recorded in Los Angeles using American voice artistes so the accents would be acceptable worldwide. “The mid-western accent has become the general currency for people across the world,” says Nihalani. “I thought, if I am making a film of international standards, it should have all the qualities the global market accepts.” The film will have a Hindi version, and may be dubbed in Tamil and Telugu as well.
However, everything in the film is made in India, something that makes Nihalani proud. “The quality of animation is top-notch, the entire film was done in 3D computer,” he says. “And what’s most exciting is that it was entirely produced at my co-producers’
Krayon Pictures animation studio in Pune. Right from the writing, the sketches by the late Ram Mohan to the character design, visual imagery, four catchy songs by Asama’s lyricist-musician-singer Vasudha Sharma to the animation itself, everything is ‘desi’ and that makes me a proud Indian.”