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Animation? That's Tom and Jerry or...

I had seen some figures on a Nasscom report saying it was booming and so suggested it as a hot new career to my boss. Initially I had no idea why it was booming. I had simply guessed it could be a growing market since comics were becoming trendy, writes Naomi Canton.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2008 00:55 IST
Naomi Canton

Animation? That's Tom and Jerry or just cartoons isn't it, I had thought.

I had seen some figures saying the industry was booming and suggested it as a hot new career to my boss. Initially, I had no idea why it was hot. I had guessed it could be a growing market since comics were becoming trendy. Other than that, I had not got much knowledge about animation.

A few days later I met two people in Zenzi in Bandra who were working in animation and they seemed very hip. I started to think of it as a fashionable career.

As part of my background interviews, I went around the Pixion studios in Bandra. All the staff, apart from the security guards, were dressed in understated cool clothes. It was almost as if, to get a job in this industry, you needed to turn up at the interview in the latest trainers.

I sat on a black leather chair in their square reception. The vibe was a world away from the chaos of Mumbai's streets outside. Foreigners dashed in and out with scripts, cool Indian men sat on the chairs reading novels. I felt like I was in Hollywood, not in Bandra and liked the culture of the industry.

The studios of Maya in Malad were similar. They are located above a trendy cafe with hookah pipes lined up in a corner. The staff are all dead cool, not least Virendra Chauhan, the creative director. In fact the studio was full of good-looking men and I nearly switched careers.

I wished I had been more of a geek as a teenager and spent my life in front of a computer rather than going out partying in bars as, then, I might have then become an animator and been able to work with all these' to-die for' guys. But then, I witnessed what the work really involved.

Nothing like Tom and Jerry…. Animation nowadays is realistic and although it is no longer done on paper, it is still laborious hard work.

One animator was designing a building. He made it look lifelike, putting in the smallest cracks and so on in the sandy paintwork. He had to be so precise, get every detail right and concentrate so hard: I was not sure if it would suit me.

Another was doing hairstyles, sitting diligently drawing each strand using an on-screen grid and picking parameters for the strands. The auburn-coloured hair that he was creating looked realistic and he even added shades and the effects of lighting on it. The atmosphere was quiet, but although everyone was working, it was fun and felt more like college grads producing a film, rather than real work. It definitely beats working in a call centre.

One guy was designing the anatomy of a deer. He had to study the anatomy of a real deer first, while another was doing water drips.

That animator said he had to know about physics and research how a water would drop first before doing it on screen. You need a great deal of skill, patience and an ability to observe, visualise and research topics. I'm not sure I would want to sit in front of computer all day working on one thing. But I think it suits men. My Dad spends hours on computer games and my uncle designs oil pipes for a living...Actually what he does on computers looks quite similar to what animators are doing on screens…as does car or product design. I guess animation is like that, but more glamorous and right now there are more men than women in it.

All the men seemed to be good-looking, intelligent, trendy and creative.

Akash was also quite spiritual. The most touching part about interviewing him was when he admitted he had been partially dyslexic as a child and that he had not realised until he saw the movie taare zameen par…I just love the idea of him visualizing characters in books rather than listening to boring lessons at school.

If you can get your hands on the unedited version of his audio clip (the edited version of which is posted on the web now) you will laugh for hours. He mucked it up so many times…

But isn't it time that a Mickey Mouse or Garfunkel came out of India? India has such fascinating culture and heritage. Apart from animating Hindu gods, you could also have an animated maid, stray dog, beggar, watchman, swami or even a Bollywood star….and give them a personality and turn them into a next generation character. If you work in a big studio that does outsourced work here you are likely to only get involved with production as the character creation and scripting will be done overseas.

That is why many animators are starting their own businesses so they can work on the entire process themselves.

The one thing I never got to the bottom of was whether you have to be able to draw or not to work in 3D animation production …while Gokul from Whistling Woods said you did, Anand and Ram Mohan said you didn't..It was the one thing Charles Darby seemed to be annoyed about…Oh well, I still don't know the answer to that…

If you do, then email me at naomi.canton@hindustantimes.com