Filmmaker Sukankan Roy, whose animation film, Sound of Joy, based on Swami Vivekananda's childhood stories, won three National Awards in 2015, has bigger plans. The filmmaker now plans to choose a real-life superhero from each state of India and make a film on them. The idea behind the project, says Roy, is to create self-belief within the children with the help of real-life heroes. The filmmaker, who has started working on the project spoke to HT.
What was the bigger idea behind making an animation film like Sound of Joy?
There are two ideas. The first big idea was to feed the children with magical truth. They have been exposed to exciting fiction for long and my perception is that, the influence of facts is more lasting than fiction. The simple way forward to this idea was to give them a taste of superhumans who really walked the earth. They already have an overdose of fictional superheroes. But what made me think about super humans, is when I realised our value chain is largely based on fiction.
It started with my own example. It was really difficult to be good boy all year round just to get a gift from Santa at the end of the year but for six long years I managed. It was an impetus enough for me to turn around the moment. I realised Santa was a figment of fiction. Kids across the world, especially Indian kids, are imbibed with this process of learning the truth from an icon of imagination. Hence there is always a chance that, the ideals imbibed in the child through that icon loose the virtue of truth the moment the icon is testified to be fictitious.
That's the void where the super humans come in. Their accomplishments were no less than the super heroes of fiction and most importantly their magical achievements were true and achievable with human limitations. And when the time comes to testify their existence, they score the truth.
I believe there is a greater chance of retention of the values imparted with the little audience if their icons don't fail the faith of the audience. My job is to present these most wondrous characters of history and their magical deeds in the most palatable ways. And what was the bigger idea?
I conceived Sound of Joy as a movement and the film was just the first step forward. The movement is aimed at catering to children. We are moving towards other areas of offerings to childhood. This will range from comic books, activity books, interactive activities (both digital and physical), TV series, toys, games and cultural activity centres to theme parks in future. These elements will have a single focus of nurturing childhood and imbibing self-belief within the children.
Do you feel films like Sound of Joy finally manage to appeal to children given that a large section of both the Indian and international audience thrive on fictional superheroes?
Often facts are stranger than fiction. The stranger the incidents, the more appealing they are. The only thing is to be able to glorify them to a magical level. If it manages to contain that magic quotient, it can entice any child to follow it. If Sound of Joy fails to do so, it will be my failure as a director but not the failure of the philosophy. Somehow till now the kind of feedback we have received from parents across the world, it looks quite promising. We are already being asked, 'what's next?'
Is the success of Sound of Joy at the National Awards the reason you want to take forward the idea and make a series of such films on real-life superheroes?
I have a very traditional way to thinking when it comes to children content. I believe children content should be tested by appropriate entities before placing on the kid's platter. For me, the National Award was just a recognition or approval of the film and the direction we were going towards. Now that we know that a panel of fertile brains has approved the content as a good for children, we can look forward to achieving success of the content. We will not achieve the real success until we can reach every kid in this country with the content and the philosophy.
How do you plan to go about making this series? Do you plan to make one film at a time and release it or have simultaneous releases?
We are planning for a series with a format of seamless inclusion of different elements, which will touch the lives of every child in this country irrespective of their demography. The childhood stories of the historical icons are only a part of it. The main aim is to make way for the super kids of today. I am sure once we are out with the series, we would be able to reach the children and the parents from every quarters of the nation. One thing that I can say for sure is this will be a traditional series format of 13 episodes for a season.
Have you already chosen the personalities on whom the films will be made?
It was a really a challenging job choosing from the long list of such people, this country is blessed with. Non-existence of authentic historical facts of childhood stories of many such greats helped us shorten the list. Even then, we have stories of icons from every corner of India.
How did you go about choosing these real-life personalities?
Only by their childhood stories and matching them with the list of virtues we are looking at to communicate to our audience.
Have you spoken to the respective state governments or have plans of doing so because such projects are encouraged by the states?
We are not engaging in any talks with any state government or the Central Government at this point in time. Maybe, we will do it at a later stage when we are ready with our content for the propagation of the same. I will be more than happy if the government encourages this content to spread out to more people.
Any plans of asking help from the Ministry Of Education or the government for funding the project?
No, we are not looking for public funds at this stage.
When do you plan to start work on the project and have you set a tentative deadline?
We have already started working on the series as well as the comics. We plan to hit the floor in another four months for the series and the comics will be in the market by August end.