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Animation industry gets serious about Bollywood
Priyanka Khanna, Aug 28  [ Sun, Aug 28, 2005 ]
Animation industry gets serious about Bollywood

  • New Delhi, Aug 28 (IANS) With India's first film featuring real life characters interacting with animated ones going on the marquees, the bourgeoning animation industry seems to be waking up to the potential of the domestic box-office long after it earned a name for itself overseas.

    The Indian box-office got its first full-length animation feature film on Friday with the release of "Bhaggmati - the Queen of Fortunes".

    Indian-made animated television programmes screening internationally include hits like "Piggley Winks", "Jack Frost", "Ali Baba", "Clootie and Dumpling", "The Three Amigoes", "Cyber Dodo" and "FrogSkool" with newer ones being added.

    Touted as Bollywood's answer to Hollywood's 1988 "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", the film has got critics' approval for its world-class animation though its story disappoints.

    The Zee Telefilms production that cost $5 million is based on a love story involving the Mughal-era ruler of southern Hyderabad city, Prince Qutab Quli Shah, and local dancer Bhaggmati, and has Tabu and Milind Soman in the lead.

    Zee's animation arm Padmalaya Telefilms has been servicing overseas clients. Last year it had signed a $14 million-contract with Italian independent producer-distributor Mondo TV to co-produce four new animated series. Its other clients include British animation companies Mallard Media and Ealing Animation.

    Though animated films have always been used as a medium for entertainment and public information, the medium was never exploited in India as a money-spinner. But since the late 90s, the animation industry has begun to take money seriously. The key catalyst was the huge overseas market for which India is proving to be a cheap production alternative.

    Now even veteran filmmakers like Ram Mohan, who is regarded as the father of Indian animation, feels that Indian animation houses should not restrict themselves to catering to the overseas market.

    The digital miracle workers are not confining themselves to introducing visual effects of international standards in Bollywood films but are acquainting Indian viewers with the magical world of animation.

    A report by Anderson Consulting pegs the Indian animation industry at $550 million. It also estimates a growth rate of 30 percent annually in the next three years resulting in a $15 billion industry by 2008. The study also reports that India will receive more than $2 billion worth of animation business by 2007.

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  • Meanwhile, Nasscom (National Association of Software Service Companies) estimates the current global animation market to be worth around $45 billion and expects it to jump to between $50 billion and $70 billion by next year. It also states that India could use 300,000 professionals in content development and animation by 2008, up from 27,000 three years ago.

    "Animation is a universal language. But in India it is still a nascent industry. We can't afford to be complacent and need to constantly upgrade our knowledge to international levels," says Rajesh Turakhia, CEO, Maya Entertainment Ltd.

    Bollywood honchos are certainly waking up to the advantages of animation and visual effects. Yash Chopra's "Hum Tum" would not have been quite the same without the cartoon characters.

    Atul Vohra of Arena feels more and more Indian production houses are realising the potential and joining the multimedia bandwagon. Almost all big budget Indian films now have a 3D animation component in their films.

    In the past few months, Mumbai-based animator United Television (UTV) has won four animation production and two co-production deals worth a total of $4 million with overseas companies.

    Though Indian animation industry has talents like Rahul Deshprabhu who worked in "The Day After Tomorrow" and "I, Robot", and visual effects producer N. Madhusudhanan who worked in "The Lord of the Rings", it still needs to go an extra mile to compete with the animation industry abroad.

    Animated versions of stories based on Indian mythology are already being telecast in Indian homes and many more are in the pipeline. However, it may be some time before producers make full-fledged animation movies in Bollywood.

    The industry, nonetheless, is trying its best to ensure that world-class made-in-India animation no longer remains the prerogative of Hollywood alone.