One of the eminent features of the recently concluded Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) 2016 was the presence of regional cinema. One such blend of the Tibetan Buddhist painting style – Thangka art and animation was a film called ‘Paradise’ (Nye Mayel Kyong) presented by Girgit Animation Studio. We had a little chat with the film’s Director Avinash Medhe and Line Producer Swarup Deb on the making of Paradise and more.

Swarup Deb, Avinash medhe and Anuj Kumar (clockwise)

Swarup Deb, Avinash Medhe and Anuj Kumar (clockwise)

To begin with, how did you conceive the concept of the film?

The film was conceptualized by Tara Douglas who is the founder of the Adivasi Arts Trust. She conducted an animation workshop with students from Sikkim and the local artists.  So she got together a lot of people including the scholars there and put together this folktale. Tara then got in touch with us because she wanted to convert the story that she developed into an animation film. So we got Thangka artists from Sikkim who came to our studio in Pune and created a lot of artwork for us. Anuj and Avinash directed them on the kind of artwork that was needed. We then made a storyboard of the entire film and used the artworks and tried to recreate the Thangka art in motion. It is an experiment in itself, because this art form has never been animated before. So we were also looking forward to see how it could be done.

Why did you’ll decide to make this into an animation film and not a regular feature film ?

Animation is basically filmmaking where you move art. So the only way to move the art was through animation. Hence, we made this into animation.


What were the inspirations or references you’ll had in mind while making this film?

We have all been watching films from our childhood. So in our subconscious mind there is always a reference that we don’t know. We keep watching various art films and have done our Post Graduation from the National Institute of Design. So during our PG we were exposed to a lot of world cinema, animation, etc. and as this film was an experiment, you don’t exactly have a reference. You always have a reference for the approach but not for the film.

Still from 'Paradise-Nye Mayel Kyong'

Still from ‘Paradise-Nye Mayel Kyong’

Since this is a film about a different culture,  what was the kind of research that went into its making?

Most of the visual research was done by Tara because she visited Sikkim and conducted the workshop. A lot of mediums were tried there and the students had made short animations. So most of the visual and cultural referencing was already done during that time. And the artists working on this film are real Thangka artists. So they were there to guide us, especially with the music. They helped with a lot of guidance. 

How was the experience of working with the Thangka artists?

Brilliant! It’s been almost two years since they did the artwork but we’re still in touch.

What were the challenges that you’ll faced while making this film?

There was no reference as such and that I would say was challenging. We had to approach the film from scratch and the story structure was not regular, it was very different. So we were always in the dilemma whether to commercialize it – add twists and turns so that the audience is gripped – or should we just leave it the way this folktale is. This was a constant dilemma and we chose to keep it the way it is and not commercialize it.

Anuj Kumar animating Nye mayel kyong, Thangka artists doing the art work (clockwise)

Anuj Kumar animating Nye mayel kyong, Thangka artists doing the artwork (clockwise)

Yet it manages to keep us hooked.

Yes, we thought of making this film as an experiment to get feedback from people. Most of the folktales are like that. They are not like Pixar stories where there’s a hero and a journey. So it took us a while to digest this kind of storytelling but then we decided to stick to it.


Can you tell us something about your upcoming projects?

We have started work on a short film on female foeticide. We’re working with the district of Bilaspur and Hamirpur in Himachal and just finished the research work. We went for a visual research and interacted with a lot of people to try and understand the reason why they prefer a boy child, who are the people committing female foeticide and what kind of emotional change can be brought. We are specially targeting school and colleges so that the mindset can be changed at a young age itself. It’s a task but we are working on it and are currently developing the story and the script.

What is the one advice you’d like to give aspiring animation directors?

We’d like to tell people that they don’t need to imitate Disney. Don’t try to do what everyone is doing and see the different storytelling that is present in our country. Try to explore them and see if the taste palette for that can be developed in the outer world.

-Kiran Dave