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Animation, the next big thing in Bollywood

It’s a $500 million market and everyone’s trying to cash in on it. Animation seems to be the buzzword in Bollywood, writes Diganta Guha.
None | By Diganta Guha, Kolkata
UPDATED ON JUL 09, 2007 07:40 PM IST

It’s a $500 million market and everyone’s trying to cash in on it. Animation seems to be the buzzword in Bollywood and not partial animation that’s been used in films such as Sooraj Barjatiya’s Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon or Siddharth Anand’s Ta Ra Rum Pum but full-fledged animation feature.

Ashok Kaul’s Bhaggmati The Queen of Fortunes (2005) was hailed as India’s first animated film. It didn’t work but paved the way for a trend. One that took the box office by storm later that year was Zee and Percept Picture Company’s Hanuman (2005).

Now, Yash Raj Films has signed a deal with Walt Disney Studios to produce at least one animation film a year starting with the Jugal Hansraj directed Roadiside Romeo. Pritish Nandy Communications has entered into a five-film deal with Motion Pixel Corporation of Florida.

Work on its first film, EKEH Version 2.0, the animated version of Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena is on. Karan Johar, too, is ready to venture into animation. Adlabs Films Ltd has joined hands with childwear brand Gini & Jony for an animation film. Besides, Adlabs and Ocher Studios, Chennai, are producing the Rajnikanth starrer Sultan The Warrior, which has Rajnikanth as an animated character.

Percept, buoyed by Hanuman’s success, has released My Friend Ganesha and plans a sequel to Hanuman. Virgin Comics and Studio 18 have joined hands to produce animated teen horror content for films, TV and games.

For all ages
There’s something for everyone, promise the makers. Pritish Nandy of PNC points out, “We are into movies that everyone will watch, irrespective of age and language preference. We will cover every genre. This is going to be a genre by itself.”

EKEH Version 2.0 is a thriller, while PNC also plans to do animated versions of a comedy like Pyaar Ke Side/Effects, an offbeat film such as Chameli and an action movie like Kaante.

Those who have tasted success with mythology also plan to explore new paths. Preet Bedi, COO of Percept Picture Company says, “Mythology is a hit but one has to move on. There will be a transition in content.”

Show me the money
There is definitely a reason why production houses are stepping into animation. Industry estimates indicate that the Indian animation industry is slated to grow by around 30 per cent. Producers are also eying the global market, with plans to release films in several languages. Sultan, for example, will be released in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.

Says Pooja Shetty, director of Adlabs Films Pvt Ltd, “Animation is a universal favourite for all audiences. However, there is a dearth of quality content originating from India. We are creating a system to look into development of animation content, its marketing and distribution requirements.”

Manny Bains of MPC (which has tied up with PNC) says in a statement, “We believe that taking both the multi-billion dollar animation sector and the global Bollywood market ahead in tandem could surpass industry expectations.”

Is the future bright?
There is caution among producers. “The animation market is not huge. The success of one film doesn’t really indicate that every project will be a hit,” says Bedi. But she feels that in three years one can expect a return of Rs 600-700 crore. But it could take a two years to be ready with an animation project. With budgets of at least Rs 12-15 crore per movie, too much enthusiasm may boomerang.

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