Where 'original Indian animation' is name of game

Pune, June 8 (IANS) One tour of Pune's Big Animation studio makes you realise that the Indian animation industry has come of age. And the man behind this set-up is Ashish Kulkarni, a pioneer in the field.

Pune, June 8 (IANS) One tour of Pune's Big Animation studio makes you realise that the Indian animation industry has come of age. And the man behind this set-up is Ashish Kulkarni, a pioneer in the field.

Kulkarni has created this massive studio with a built-up area of 60,000 sq ft, which will focus on original Indian content in animation.

'It was in 1995 that animation channels were first seen in India and there were no Indian stories. When our kids go to foreign universities they should have some knowledge of Indian epics,' Kulkarni told IANS.

The studio is owned by the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group and is their first venture in the sunshine industry of animation and gaming.

Big Animation was born in 2005 when Kulkarni's Bangalore-based animation studio Ani Rights was bought over by corporate honcho Anil Ambani. The studio produced the popular Veneta Cucine advertisement that went on to bag a 2006 award for best animated ad film.

'My first choice to set up the studio was Pune; I didn't want my artists to waste their creative time in local trains (with a studio in Mumbai). In all, 370 people along with their families were moved bag and baggage to Pune,' Kulkarni said.

It was naturally a dream come true for Kulkarni who after his daughter's birth in 1994 wanted to drift away from offshore animation production to something original and Indian. And that is Big Animation's USP.

What's interesting is all the techno animation artists at Big Animation live within a radius of one to two kilometres from the studio.

'We thought if an artist wants to take a break in the evening he can go home and come back later in the evening, as an artist in the middle of a project needs to be completely focused and commuting takes away that creativity from him.'

At present Big Animation along with the Indian Heritage Foundation, Bangalore, is completely engrossed in the production of 'Hey Krishna', an animated feature film to be released later this year.

According to experts, the movie will set a new standard in the Indian animation film industry in terms of originality and quality.

'The studio is into the process of setting up multi-feature film pipelines for both domestic and international markets in 2D and high-end 3D. Big Animation is channelising its energy and funds towards acquisition and development of proprietary products and tools to create a one of its kind IP value chain in the world,' says Kulkarni.

The studio is equipped with a Dolby digital sound auditorium, a 35 mm Barco projection unit, the ones used at INOX cinema halls. The auditorium also has an acting floor for animators, separate sound recording studios and a sculptor's room.

On the technical side, Big Animation functions on 64Bit architecture, it has a foundry big Iron RX network switch, one of the fastest in the world and a Blue Arch storage rate. According to Kulkarni, each workstation is equipped with specialised PCs worth Rs.50 to 60 million.

With the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group also deciding to start its own television channels, the studio is bound to be a hub for most animation content.

Big Animation is planning to increase from its existing strength of 610 employees to 1,200 plus by the year 2009. Feature films and high-end computer graphics TV series for a global audience will be its focus area.

The Indian animation industry is said to be growing at the rate of 50 percent every year and is expected to churn out around 800 movies in the next couple of years.

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