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Ancient language, modern execution

29bgmpPunyakoti3

29bgmpPunyakoti3

It’s the coming together of the old and new at many levels — a man in IT hub Bengaluru harnesses technology to create a India’s first contemporary animation feature film in Sanskrit, based on a Kannada folktale, crowdsourced and crowdfunded by animators and people from the world over.

Noted Tamil film music director, Ilayaraja, will be composing the music for this film. The story of Punyakoti has taken a life of its own, after Ravi Shankar, who heads HR at Infosys’ BPO in Bengaluru put up his project on Facebook. Over 30 animators from Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, and parts of Kerala have contributed to this crowd-sourced animated film. “About 24 scenes have been storyboarded and 11 scenes are in a stage of animatics,” explains Ravi.

And it all started on a work commute — a colleague of Ravi’s told him the story of Punyakoti, the legend of the cow who confronted a tiger so her calf could live. The story, I can bet, hasn’t left anyone dry-eyed ever. It didn’t spare Ravi either, when he first heard the song, “The honesty strikes a chord.” The story has been part of textbooks, films, and is popularly called “Govina haadu” and the opening lines “Dharani mandala madhyadolage…” rings a familiar bell for many. The film is based on a book on the same story that Ravi wrote for children, and goes further to explore it as a growing issue of man-animal conflict — “Why did the tiger come out of the forest…there must have been some ecological disaster in Karunaadu,” he reasons. “The message of living a life of honesty and living in harmony with nature is universal.  It needs to be collectively owned and told by all of us.”

The film has 31 scenes and each scene will be created by a different animator, says Ravi. “It is an open project model — we have thumbnails of the whole movie. An animator gets these thumbnails, the script, shot breaks, characters and a 3D environment for reference. There is a video briefing, a Skype call, we even do a dummy dubbing. There are constant updates so that each can see the progress of the project. I’m taking advantage of digital technology and all credit goes to the ‘connected world’,” says Ravi. “The advantage is no one is coming to an office to do ‘work’. This is a passion for every one.”

He also offers an honorarium of Rs. 5,000 per scene, he says. He says this film was a passion since India has always been seen as the back office of world famous animation. “We need to do something in our original style.”

Ravi says he had worked on the first ever interactive animated CD Rom for children way back in 1995, and had developed a “frugal” style of animation based on puppetry; he started his career as an ad copywriter. Having worked for a BPO, he also learnt to “processise” everything, he says, which came to the film’s advantage. It was all this that came together for the film, which he started with his friend Girish A.V (who is creative director of the film). “Together we went to Ilayaraja sir, who is my mentor, who has seen my earlier book. He reassured us that ‘This will work; do it’. But you will never find a producer for a Sanskrit animation film!” Ilayaraja is doing the music for free.

So they turned to crowdfunding, and on Wishberry, they have raised eight of the Rs. 40 lakh they have set as a target; people from as far as the Netherlands, Brazil, and Atlanta have contributed.

Why a film in Sanskrit? “It’s a wonderful language. At a time and age where the current generation is leaving Sanskrit behind, I felt it was time to make Sanskrit more accessible, young and relevant. Imagine! It is 5,000 years of knowledge eliminated by 200 years of English! I discovered Sanskrit after I turned 40. It’s such an easy language. It improves cognitive aspects in children. The algorithm of the language is perfect. It’s a context-free language; today in computing we struggle to create such a language. No one writes books in Sanskrit any more for children,” he aggressively concludes. Samskrita Bharati has come on board to simplify the language in the film.

Rakesh P. Nair, designer of 2014 National Games mascot, Anvar Ali, renowned children’s writer and poet from Kerala and Manoj Kannoth, the National Award-winning editor of Veettilekkulla Vazhi, are also on board this ambitious project. Ravi says the 90-minute film should be ready by August 2016.

To know more or participate, check >www.punyakoti.com


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Printable version | Aug 14, 2022 7:06:28 am | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/ancient-language-modern-execution/article7361387.ece