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  • Rhea Gangavkar

Kolkata Rising: Ghost Animation

Lost The Plot speaks with the talented animators from Calcutta based Ghost Animation, one of India's foremost independent animation studios about their love for 2D animation and their latest collection of short films, available for viewing for the very first time as part of their 'First Flight Tour.' Words by Rhea Gangavkar

In the not so distant future, the sea has swallowed the Sundarbans and come into our homes. The streets of Kolkata are no more, and the city’s rooftops are the only remaining refuge. A group of tigers slink through the water, distraught and desperate, not too different from the human inhabitants left behind. This last image stayed with us until day’s end. We had just finished watching the trailer of ‘Wade,’ a dystopian animated short film made by the Kolkata based studio, Ghost Animation.

Theirs is a collective of six animators: Upamanyu Bhattacharya, Kalp Sanghvi, Gaurav Wakankar, Isha Mangalmurti, Shaheen Sheriff and Anwaar Alam, all of whom studied at the National Institute of Design, in different batches of Animation Film Design. They started working together informally while they were still in college. After graduation, having spent over three summers working together, they decided to form a collective out of their love for filmmaking and passion for 2D animation. Based in Kolkata, they are always looking for exciting projects to be a part of, be it title sequences, animated segments for documentary films, or their latest: a home grown, in house series of four short films. 

When asked about what drew them to animation, they said, “Animation has drawn us to itself for various reasons. For starters, one can achieve so much through this medium that can’t be achieved otherwise. It allows you to create literally anything! Also, it happens to be the most comfortable language for all of us to express in. We find it to be the most powerful and complete medium of expression.” The astonishing lengths that one can go to when depicting an idea are all very much possible in the realm of animation. Its fluid nature is able to accommodate each animator’s perception of reality. And the innumerable styles resulting from it in turn make the medium richer.

The first project that Ghost Animation took on was for the Wildlife Trust of India, a short film named “Kinara” about the tiger population in the jungles of Tadoba. “Wade” is about the aftermath of global warming affecting the city of Kolkata. The city is a ghost town, deserted because it is submerged in water, with the last of its inhabitants heading upwards, to dry land. They are ambushed by a group of tigers while escaping and what follows is the struggle to escape from the devastating consequences of man’s own actions. 

Choosing serious subjects like climate change and moral crises and portraying them through a medium like animation is exciting and at the same time unusual. “Mother” another short film in the series, is about human behaviour and how the closest of people react when caught in complex situations. It explores the intricacies of human emotions, while “Watchmaker at Time’s End,” an exercise in irony, gets you thinking about how although time may be running out for our planet due to global warming, we still need to keep track of whatever time we have left here. When asked about how they chose their subjects, the filmmakers said, “All the topics that our films revolve around are the ones we are surrounded by everyday and affect us in more than one way. We feel strongly about them, be it fear or curiosity or fascination and we feel the urge to speak up about them through our work.” 

The final film in the series called “Beyond Borders” is about doctors having to survive pressure from both sides - saving and treating a patient while being subject to continuous conflict in the state. The film is an animated documentary, an interesting combination of two very contrasting mediums chosen to explore this topic. “Animated documentary presented itself as the apt medium for telling stories which couldn’t have been portrayed in live-action. The film does not target any particular audience, it rather opens a dialogue for all viewers about the place of humanitarian work in today’s war-torn world.” We think that it not only opens a dialogue, but also presents the complicated issue of humanitarian crises on a simpler plane and evokes empathy and a call for peace from various different pockets of the world. 

Apart from the stunning artwork, it is the small snippets of captivating sound that kept us hooked to the trailers. “Sound design can be much more expressive in animated films, adding and accentuating the suspension of disbelief that we are already creating with the medium,” the Ghost team added. No wonder it is such an integral aspect of their films, almost a character in itself!  

Animation in India has a variety of talent springing up from new places and looking for platforms to showcase their work. “The Indian animation scene is changing at a drastic speed at the moment, with more and more original content being produced in the country each day. We are motivated to work towards this and create more animated content for all age groups,” says the collective.

Finally, we asked them about how young, aspiring animators could get their work out in the open and recognised. Social media was the first thing on their mind, with platforms like Instagram and Vimeo gaining precedence. “Don’t get bogged down by the majority telling you that this can’t be done. Do it anyway. Because we all love stories and if you have something you want to tell, go ahead and tell it,” they say. 

In Ghost Animation Collective’s own words, “It’s an exciting time to be making animation in India. Let us all work together towards building more support for the medium and make more films!”

Watch Ghost Animation’s short films at Lost The Plot’s launch edition of ‘Reel Tiny Films,’ a night dedicated to showcasing the best of Indian and International short films. 15th November 7:00 pm onwards at the lovely new WeWork Futura co-working space in Pune. The screenings will be followed by a Q&A and discussion with the Ghost Animation team. Grab your seats here.



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