Who would have believed that a film that features Indian deities like Lord Vishnu and Lord Hanuman as its heroes would make it to the Oscars? But Sanjay Patel, an animator, who has worked on films like A Bug’s Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters, Inc (2001), The Incredibles (2004), Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007), Toy Story 3 (2010) and Monsters University (2013), made it to the list of Oscar nominees this year. His directorial debut — the animated short film Sanjay’s Super Team (2015) — is one of five nominees in the Short Film (Animated) category.
Ever since his Oscar nomination, Sanjay’s father’s life has changed drastically. Now, he knows what the Oscars are. Sanjay says, “My father’s neighbours have come to his house and showed him newspaper clippings about the Oscars. He couldn’t be more proud.” Many would believe that once someone turns director, the next step would be to make another film. But Sanjay wants to go back to his job of being an animator, and help other directors. He explains, “I never wanted to be a director. I turned down the opportunity to be one three times. I don’t feel very creative in public; I am creative when I am by myself, when nobody’s looking. It is very scary for me to work in public view.”
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When it comes to the Oscars, competition is fierce. But Sanjay isn’t feeling the heat. He says, “I started working on the movie believing that we were doing something unique. I’m really proud of the film. I haven’t seen an animated short film coming out of the US. I didn’t think it was possible. I could actually feel that mould being broken, and being re-written. It shows that there is scope in the animation industry for stories about immigrants. All the nominations are deserving in their own way. I think all of us are winners.”
Sanjay also reveals that the film is based on his personal life. He grew up in the US, and didn’t appreciate his ancestral background. It was only when he began reading about Indian culture and philosophy that he developed a new-found respect for his parents. He says, “As my perception changed, it led me closer to my father. I didn’t see that coming. My father and I never really had a sharing relationship. We did not talk to each other. We lived separate lives. He would keep himself busy with his puja (prayers). I never showed him any of my films, or my artwork, for 20 years.” In fact, it was only when Sanjay wrote his first book, The Little Book Of Hindu Deities: From The Goddess Of Wealth To The Sacred Cow, and dedicated it to his parents, that the gap was bridged.
Watch the making of the movie here
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