An animated dystopia earns Oscar nomination

Schirkoa’, an animation film with a strange sounding name, earned the distinction of being the first Indian animated short film, to qualify for Oscar, in 2016.

An animated dystopia earns Oscar nomination

Vandana Shukla in Chandigarh

Schirkoa’, an animation film with a strange sounding name, earned the distinction of being the first Indian animated short film, to qualify for Oscar, in 2016. The honour earned by Ishan Shukla’s original film instilled new hope in a burgeoning industry that thrives mostly on outsourced work, for lack of capital and original Indian content. 

A highly developed, 100-year-old, live action film industry like Bollywood has earned only four Oscar nominations so far. Therefore, the award bears significance on the future of the animation industry that recently witnessed a setback when Dreamworks and Disney decided to phase out their operations in India. People involved with this nascent industry got a boost by this recognition at the juncture; albeit the film could not make it to the final list, it stood among the heavyweight global brands such as Pixar, Disney, Google and Vimeo, to win international accolades. 

‘Schirkoa’, is a 14-minute short version of the graphic book produced by Shukla in 2012. The film is a reflection on the obsession of the present world for the pursuit of perfection. People of the imaginary dystopian city Schirkoa cracked a way to achieve perfection; by wearing bag-heads, which eliminates any possibility of discrimination on the basis of race, class or creed. 

But, underlying differences come to the fore when the protagonist, who is also a senator, falls in love with a woman of uncertain origins. His conflict of interest becomes the conflict of the city of bag-heads. 

Schirkoa premiered in Los Angeles at the Academy Award qualifying - LA Shorts Film Festival, where it won the “Best Animated Short” award. It also won ‘The Best Of Show’ award at SIGGRAPH, the highest honour in Computer Graphics and the ‘Best Animated Short Film’ at the Sydney World Film Festival.

The writer, director of the film, Ishan, born and brought up in Pilani, dropped out of the enviable engineering degree course at BITS, Pilani, in favour of his creative, imaginative self. He tried to get admission into one of the fine arts colleges, but failed and landed in Singapore to pursue a course in animation, his passion. After a seven year stint in the highly developed animation industry of Singapore, he returned home to support family. 

While working for 6-days-a-week job, he worked on this film for four years through the nights and on weekends, at home. Sharad Varma, producer of the film, who also happens to be Shukla’s life partner, says, animation is capital intensive, it’s not just a computer, a number of software is involved, that apart, for this film Shukla had to collaborate with musicians and sound artists across continents. “It involved directing animators, actors and musicians residing in various countries, as far away as the US, France, Singapore and Malaysia,” she says. The production was also enabled by extensive use of latest technologies such as motion capture solutions, GPU-based rendering software, and cloud-based collaboration tools. 

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