Animation Involves Patience, Art, Creativity and Hard Work: Kireet Khurana, Animator and Film Maker
Kireet Khurana is an inspiration for anyone aspiring to establish a foothold in the animation industry. Born in 1967, he grew up in a creative
environment and was making animation films by the age of six, being guided by his father, Bhimsain, who is considered to be India's animation pioneer (remember Ek Chidiya Anek Chidiyan?) He has a formal education in animation and film making (1991 - 1994) from the renowned Sheridan College, Canada.
Kireet has won five President's National Awards, three international awards and an assortment of 20 awards for his short films. He is the creator and director of the award-winning series "Adventures of Chhota Birbal" (2002) that premiered on Cartoon Network and was India's first animation character to be licensed by the channel. He is also the director of India's first live-action and 3-D animation combination film "Toonpur Ka Superhero" starring Bollywood superstars Ajay Devgan and Kajol.
IndiaEducation.net caught up with him recently to get insight into the evolution and future scope of the animation industry in India. Kireet also dispenses some practical advice to aspiring animators in the country.
Q. As the director and creative head of a leading film production and animation house in India, how do you feel the animation industry has evolved in India?
Khurana: When I graduated in animation filmmaking in 1994, there were only about two to three animators in India. There was no industry and the know-how of animation lay with these few individuals. India produced only about three to five minutes of low quality 2-D animation films, which were aired mostly on Doordarshan. Considering the fact that Disney made its first animated feature way back in 1937, the classic "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," we didn't have much at all after 60 years. There were many factors to be blamed for the lack of animation in this country, the overall backwardness and lack of a liberalised economy among them. And I was the first graduate from an animation school abroad.
However, things have taken a dramatic turn since then. The country has now more than 20,000 hard core professionals working on the best international films doing animation and visual effects (VFX) for Hollywood as well as for the Indian film industry. So we have taken giant strides in less than two decades and have become a world player in animation as far as talent is concerned.
One area of concern is that the Indian content is still not mature, indigenous content is poor and our storytelling is not up to mark. This will improve in the course of time as storytelling courses specifically designed for animation are being introduced in animation colleges here.
Q. What inspired you to study and make a career in the animation and film making industry at a time when it was not quite popular in India?
Khurana: It was simple for me. When I was six years old I was already making animation films due to the fact that my father Bhimsain (maker of the iconic animation short film "Ek Anek, Ekta" and many more) was an Indian animation pioneer. He had learned animation in a very limited way while working with Films Division of India, but managed to exploit the medium through his wonderful storytelling skills and created many films and animated series. So in some sense animation runs in my blood.
Q. You've been instrumental in creating "Toonpur ka Superhero," which was well received by the Indian audience. Will the Indian film industry propel the growth of the animation industry in India?
Khurana: 19 out of the 20 top grossing films worldwide are animation feature films or visual effects (VFX) driven films. Like in India, people elsewhere go to the theatres to see extended reality, get entertained and wowed by something they didn't or couldn't imagine. If the emotions and the impact of the film are high, then I don't see any reason why animation films will not succeed in India eventually.
Toonpur was made for kids. And it appeals very well to the target audience. However, you see the animation films of the West are written for an adult audience and they appeal to kids as well. This is the shift we have to make now.
Q. Do you feel the animation institutes in the country are imparting quality education and meeting the need for producing skilled animators and related professionals for the Indian animation industry? How should students interested in this field pick the right course and college?
Khurana: Animation institutes have done their job of creating a critical mass of animators in this country, a huge workforce that is skilled (not necessarily "thinking animators" or creative). That served India as the back office for outsourcing jobs in animation. However, moving ahead we have to create more "thinking animators" and some entrepreneurs and many storytellers so that we can tell our own stories competently from script to screen.
I head one of the best institutes, Frameboxx Animation & Visual Effects, as chief creative officer. We have more than 60 centres all over India. It's a huge system to change, but we are working towards shifting emphasis from skill-based training to value-based education in the animation segment. It will take some time to show full results, but it is underway.
Q. What is the scope of animation in India? Any upcoming specialisation or field that students can focus on?
Khurana: Worldwide, save for a few film production companies like Disney-Pixar and Dreamworks, which have their own very strong distribution network for their movies, the animation industry isn't doing too well at this point. This is truer if you happen to be a service providing company and not an intellectual property (IP) creation company with original ideas. That's where the growth will always be - going up the value chain. If India can shift gears from being a large service provider to becoming an IP creation country, the possibilities are limitless.
Students need to focus on art, drawing, design, drama, theatre, storytelling and writing a lot more than computers and just learning software and commands. This will really help them achieve a great command over the medium.
(Also read: How to select an Animation college in India?)
Q. Any word of advice for animation and filmmaking aspirants and students?
Khurana: Disney once said that it takes 16 years for one to become an animator. The old adage "It takes 20 years of hard work to become an overnight success" applies most to the animation industry.
In the age of instant gratification, many in the younger generation think they can learn animation in three to six months by joining some course without any prerequisite for art. Most don't want to focus on the "art" of animation and have misconceptions that animation is about knowing the software. Well, they couldn't be further away from the truth.
(Also read: What animation software should I learn?)
The country has had about 1.5 lakh or maybe more aspirants who had joined various short-term courses in software training and animation. Most ended jobless and ultimately quit the industry and blamed the animation institutes for false promises. Their claims are partly true, but mostly not. We don't live in the dark ages anymore. A little bit of online research will shed light on what it takes to become an animator and if the aspirant has resisted doing that, then he/she should take responsibility for his/her myopic decisions.
Animation is all about patience, perseverance, art, creativity and solid hard work. There are no shortcuts in animation. If you are looking to get rich overnight by being in the animation industry, it is best you consider some other profession. Passion is the key to succeed in this demanding profession.
Please note: Unless explicitly stated otherwise, any job outlook predictions, career/educational advice and salary information found on this page are based solely on the opinion of the interviewee and not that of IndiaEducation.net or any other organization.