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Indian toons go mainstream

What does the mainstream release of Bhaggmati imply? Saibal Chatterjee takes a look.

entertainment Updated: Aug 31, 2005 13:15 IST

The last Friday of August 2005 will go down in the history of Indian animation films as a red-letter day. It saw the release of 50-odd prints of Bhaggmati - The Queen of Fortunes, a 160-minute live action-cum-animation feature produced by mass media major Zee Telefilms.

Never before had audiences on the subcontinent seen an indigenously crafted feature-length 2D animation film vie with conventional live action fare for the eyeballs of the paying public. What does the mainstream release of Bhaggmati imply?

Running alongside the Boney Kapoor-produced slapstick potboiler, No Entry, and Nagesh Kukunoor's engaging cricket drama, Iqbal, a film from the Subhash Ghai stable, Bhaggmati is obviously up against extremely stiff competition. But the very fact that a film of its ilk has made it to the multiplexes is an indication that Indian animation is finally ready to go places.

Bhaggmati is part mythology, part history. Revolving around the Prince of Hyderabad Quli Qutub Shah's love for the beautiful danseuse Bhaggmati, the film dwells upon the futility of class and religious divides when amorous hearts unite.

Well over half the footage of Bhaggmati, which stars Tabu, Milind Soman and Hema Malini in the live action portions, has been created by Indian animators. Yes, Bhaggmati does have its loose ends and some of the animated figures are a trifle flat, but this labour of love, directed by Major Ashok Kaul, marks a watershed in the growth of Indian animation films.

Bhaggmati was first conceived ten years ago, immediately after Major Kaul completed Param Vir Chakra in the mid 1990s. The live action-animation feature has been in the making for six years, suggesting the arduous, painstaking nature of the enterprise.

Yet, Bhaggmati is not the only animation film that's in the mainstream fray today. In October, Sahara One Entertainment and Percept Picture Company will release yet another 2D animation feature, Hanuman, in movie halls around the country.

The trailers of the film are already running in the multiplexes and the publicity pitch is pretty clear. Hanuman seeks to blend the Indian fascination for mythology with the collective movie audience's need for an invincible superhero. So, will Hanuman woo moviegoers quite to the extent that the likes of Superman, Spiderman and Batman manage to do?

Like Bhaggmati, Hanuman has been entirely executed by a team of India animators. Director by veteran animator V.G. Samant, it's been in the making for seven years.

In the home video segment, too, a bit of a revolution is about to unfold. Shethia Audio Visuals, a Mumbai-based company that releases home video titles under the brand name of Gipsy, is set to unveil a 95-minute 3D animation feature titled Lord Krishna by the end of the year.