Animation brings Arjun to life
The war at Kurukshetra may have lasted 18 days, but director Arnab Chaudhuri's animated film Arjun: The Warrior Prince was three years in the making
The movie was ready in 2010 but released only this Friday. This is because, like his protagonist, Chaudhuri too was waiting for the exact moment to hit the bullseye.
In a bid to cash in on the summer holidays with a relatively clutter-free weekend at the movies, Chaudhuri chose this date to release his film on the life of one of the greatest warriors in mythology — Arjun. While mythology has no dearth of heroes with a list of feats — one greater than the other — Chaudhuri says Arjun stands out. “I wanted to make a big action movie on the biggest action hero and Arjun is the greatest of them. He is head and shoulders above the rest,” he says.
Arjun: The Warrior Prince explores the archer’s coming of age. The film follows his journey from being a talented student to becoming a warrior. Chaudhuri says this transformation has seldom been seen on screen. And he would know. With a degree from the National Institute of Design and over 15 years of experience in television (he has worked at Channel [V] and launched Pogo), Chaudhuri has seen his fair share of animation to know how to hit the right note.
However he was faced with one major obstacle — the sheer magnitude of the epic of Mahabharata. Arjun’s story is only one aspect of the Mahabharata and fitting it all into a 90-minute film was the greatest stumbling block for the 40 year-old director. What helped was a rigorous production plan that kept things on track.
Chaudhuri says, “In animation, you have nothing to start with and then you have to build a believable world. We had to think about the placement and purpose of every leaf and every pebble. In animation, there is no room for mistakes.”
A summer release of an animation film ensures that those filling the multiplex seats are children. But Chaudhuri’s film does not shy away from depicting the violence Arjun indulged in. Chaudhuri explains this bold choice. “The film deals with his life as a warrior, so we have not stayed away from the violence involved. It was necessary to depict it. But we have given it context. It’s not a children’s comedy but is pretty grown up in the way it portrays Arjun’s life as a warrior.”
And right there, Chaudhuri has very consciously broken a stereotype — animation is not all cutesy and cartoony. He says it is a medium, not a genre. Then why has Indian cinema not taken real advantage of this medium yet? Chaudhuri says, “Our animation industry is not as old as that of the West. In the West, the animation industry is as old as the live-action one. So they have grown together and made progress.”
He believes that his film could be the one that propels the progress of animation because a movie of this scale has seldom been attempted in India.