Source : Finding The Voices
Bhumenjoy, the emerging animation filmmaker from Khundrakpam, Imphal has been sharing his ups and downs of life and how he remained glued to multimedia and took up the challenging job of making Keibu-Kei-Oiba, the first Manipuri animation film based on a popular folktale. This story has been dwelling in the folklore of Manipur since olden days.
No Child’s Play
The successful production of the film was the outcome of team work of five likeminded persons. The project of making an animation film was not a child’s play although the film basically focused on children, he recounted. Manipur is a place of different shortcomings and the team had to produce a standard film with limited softwares and hardwares, which were available in hand at that time. Bhumenjoy put up the proposal on the desk before his companions –Ailan, Sirish, Dominic and Satyen, who were his work-mates and close friends. They discussed in detail of the project. The company of five eventually stuck to the final resolution wherein Bhumenjoy took the major initiative while his friends were ready to help him financially. He started the process of making the film at the cost of his job in 2007.
The maiden step of Bhumenjoy was a big challenge of making an 84-minute animated film. He already had the experience of making short commercials and short films of few seconds and few minutes. But this time the whole project was based on his knowledge, and the production duration went beyond the expected time. Film production needs great involvement of many professionals – scriptwriter, music composer and dialogue writer etc, and above that, making an animation film need drawings, animation, voice-over etc. Bhumenjoy recruited three students from Manipur, and brought them to Pune to accompany him in drawings. The students were trained for 2-3 months and made them learn computer and its applications with the vision that it might be an initial step for their career in multimedia. The team put in a lot of effort in making the movie consulting and researching many things so that it could be articulated well in terms of music and dialogue.
Challenges on Bhumenjoy’s Way
The first obstacle in this project was the remaking of storyline. There was no written volume of Keibu-Kei-Oiba’s story. Bhumenjoy had to develop the story of the film from the folktale. It needed thorough understanding and great efforts in creating the characters to visualize the tale within a storyline. The story was then reproduced in drawings. So he needed a strong script which could bring lives to the characters drawn either on the paper or in the computer. He did research on every single detail that came up in the story. The interesting thing in his project was that no video-camera was used in making the whole film. The characters and scenes were drawn in different camera angles, which was really exhausting physically and psychologically, he added.
Keibu-Kei-Oiba was a unique character of a human-tiger. And this half-man-half-tiger creature had to deliver dialogue in the film. The facial structure was made a little bit contorted from the real tiger to adjust with human voice and the action of speaking during the process of digitalization. And it came as a big challenge to Bhumenjoy in visualizing the characters of Keibu-Kei-Oiba, the conjoined character of a man and a beast. The production team did use faded colours while drawing to fiddle with the story.
Creation of Thabaton’s Character
Creation of seven brothers and the youngest innocent pretty sister, Thabaton was another challenge. In the story, Thabaton’s age must be around 16 to 20 years old and accordingly the eldest brother must be 30 or so and a bachelor too. It was hard to develop the facial and physical structures of seven different brothers and a sister of a single family within the age range of 10 to 14 years. Balancing the characters and creating look-alike brothers and sister cost lots of labour, he recounted. Developing Thabaton’s character took lots of time comparing to others as Bhumenjoy was not an expert in drawing women’s portrait. He took references from other pictures and photos of women, kept on trying by keeping in his mind about her hairstyle, eye, height, dress and all until he got the final innocent face of Thabaton.
Regarding background music, Sori Senjam had to work so hard to develop a suitable composition and he faced tough time in engaging musicians as the law and order was too bad at that time in Manipur. At last, he came out with the perfect tunes and beats. With regards to dialogues, Bhumenjoy consulted renowned Manipuri ethnic scholar, Hemochandra alias Khaba. In response to it, Khaba rebuilt the long gone words, traditional style of speaking as well the nature of expression as a part of Bhumenjoy’s research work. The voice over artistes who joined the team with heart and soul were popular artistes, Bishwamittra, Kalpana, and Joseph for the characters like Keibu-Kei-Oiba, Thabaton and the thief and crow respectively. Joseph added a hilarious dialogue on his own during dubbing – “Eikhoi-na khara singba huranba oibagee khut-ta teijabei wani, apangba huran-ba sing-ga oiradi masi khong-na net-ladouni”. Contributions from other artistes from drama and theatre were also remarkable. The voice over of the old grandmother was not of an old woman, Bhumenjoy recounted. The voice over artistes needed to see the animated scenes to harmonize with the pictures, and animation needed sound clips to build up the facial expression. In such circumstances, Bhumenjoy made the artistes visualize the picture of the situation and explained it precisely to them. Actually, voice recording preceded animated visuals production and the engagement of drama and theatre artistes held a great advantage.
Bishwamittra’s fine expression of both human and animal instincts effect on eating fruit and vegetable was really great, Bhumenjoy added. The paramount efforts of production group were less known to the audience but their appreciation, children’s interest and enjoyment when they watched the film were much above all.
Preserving folktales in Visual Medium
Bhumenjoy’s idea of production of Keibu-Kei-Oiba in animated film was to preserve the nearly extinct folktales. “The traditional forms of entertainment, which imbibe moral values, like in the short sequence in “Kekoo Lotpi”, and the narration of folktales by our grandparents as bed-time stories are vanishing from our minds replacing gradually by the taste of the new media. So, I prefer to preserve the folk tales by remaking and presenting it in the visual medium which will remain forever and ever, Bhumenjoy said.