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Simplifying epics and legends

Epified is an attempt to bring the 'Internet generation' closer to its roots by making simple yet meaningful YouTube videos of stories taken from legends and mythologies

From the story of Amba's Ruin and a brief outline of Shikhandi's life, to why the Mahabharata and the Ramayana should be read together, and the origin of temples in India, to the story of Pharoah Akhenaten, the ruler who gave birth to monotheism and changed the face of religion in the modern world, some of the well-known and little-known myths and legends from around the world are making their way into YouTube in the form of simple whiteboard sketches.

Sameer Pitalwalla, CEO and Co-founder, Culture Machine Digital Video Entertainment Company
Sameer Pitalwalla, CEO and Co-founder, Culture Machine Digital Video Entertainment Company 

We caught up with Sameer Pitalwalla, CEO and Co-founder, Culture Machine Digital Video Entertainment Company — a YouTube-based multi-channel Network — who has come up with this YouTube series aptly named, Epified.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. What is epified?
A. Epified is an online video channel that seeks to transform ideas taken from Indian mythologies into online content in the form of whiteboard animation , which are converted into YouTube videos. We write, direct and produce our own content. There is a large body of cultural knowledge that does not find its way to today's Internet generation'. If it does, it is either too obscure or too boring or too simplistic. What we are aiming for is to build a place where high concepts and great mythological stories are put across in a simple, yet effective way. We are trying to marry simplicity with substance.

Q. How did you come up with the concept?
A. We always wanted to work on mythology. Most of the material we have in this genre right now is either too devotional or too action-adventure oriented. We wanted to focus more on the life lessons these stories impart. We brought on board mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik as a guide and advisor and to direct the initiative, and collaborated with comic book writer Vijayendra Mohanty for the text while most of the artwork is done by this young artist Girish Malap.

This Epified story depicts how the Egyptians, who lived a heavily ritualised life, which included building pyramids and mummifying the dead, ensured that the dead passed on from the world of Horus to the world of Osiris
This Epified story depicts how the Egyptians, who lived a heavily ritualised life, which included building pyramids and mummifying the dead, ensured that the dead passed on from the world of Horus to the world of Osiris 

Q. Why did you chose whiteboard animation?
A. We, at Epified, believe that the message is the most important part and the vessel that contains the message should not get in the way of accessing the message. If it does, it defeats the purpose. Whiteboard animation makes for an unobtrusive way of conveying a message or telling a story. We want our way of communication to be as lucid as the messages we put out.

Q. How do you pick the stories? What are the texts you are working on?
A. As far as selecting stories is concerned, we try to strike a balance between the well-known ones and the relatively unknown. We have an already established Mahabharata series running on Epified. In the near future, we intend to explore the Mahabharata more deeply with miniseries on some of the more important individual characters. In addition, we are already at work on adapting/exploring other texts and mythological stories.

Q. Take us through the process.
A. First we zero in on an idea that needs to be expressed. Then we research on it and script it out in the simplest possible way that will best suit the medium. We distill the epics into their simplest and most mainstream version. This is achieved by reading the books that are already out there Video Entertainment Company — the many retellings of the epics, the various interpretations of mythology. After we have the skeleton in place, we explore aspects of the epics using spin-offs and short character/deity profiles. We also adapt already-existing works like books and essays by Pattanaik, whose work on mythology has brought an entire generation of Indians closer to their cultural heritage.

Q. How did the collaboration with Devdutt Pattanaik happen?
A. We approached Pattanaik to be a guide for the project and he agreed. In addition to the regular programming on Epified, we are also converting Pattanaik's books into a brand new Video Book format. It is something that has not been done before and we are really excited about it.

Q. What's next?
A. Culture Machine is primarily a YouTube based multi-channel network. So naturally, a YouTube channel was the first thing to come up. But Epified has a sizable following on Facebook and even more platforms are being added to the menu even as we speak. We want to keep an open mind regarding what Epified can become in the future. There is much in mythology that has not been said and we intend to say those things. But, we are hoping to expand our boundaries to literature and other topics of universal intrigue. We are also planning to translate existing texts of other well-known Indian authors into video books.

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