Monday, January 11, 2016

What a delightful start to the day – we watched and studied the works of one of my favourite artists - Jan Svankmajer, an influential Czech Surrealist film-maker who has performed great experiments using various mediums in the field of animation. He pushed the limits of puppets in his films. We saw a documentary on him and two of his films. I was amazed by his clever ways of editing. In Historia Naturae, he doesn't move the subjects frame by frame throughout the film. He cleverly cuts between them, in quick succession, creating a dramatic impact on the viewer. The sound supported these visuals tremendously, making a delight for us to savour. His works are haunting, clever, humorous, exaggerated, making a political comment and creating a strange unsettling effect on our minds. All credit goes to his innovative stop motion and pixelation techniques.

We had a little discussion on the concept of authenticity. It's something that we as film-makers need to think about. How can we classify a piece of work as authentic? Probably an accurate, honest account of a subject that has not been ripped from any source. A piece of work that gives due credit to the source of origin from which it has been adapted, or interpreted differently. We also spoke about the importance of research before making a film. Since we are animating a folk tale of the Kom tribe, it is imperative that we know every little detail about their appearance, clothing, language, culture and way of life. Only then we will be able to get into the skin of the characters and animate them accordingly.

After a short break, two of my friends and I recorded a couple of foley sounds and composed the background score of the film. All the sounds were created using bamboo, cowries, beads, dhol and the flute. We tried using the same approach as the Kom does during their dance performances. It was an interesting exercise to create each sound traditionally instead of using computer generated ones on the software. We really got into the groove of the drumbeats for their dance. These beats now paint a much clearer picture of each shot and their transitions in my head. Also, the spirit of the people when they dance. Meanwhile my peers are slowly but steadily progressing, striking off one shot after another, doing a great job with sand.

Also, I was just telling my faculty member how interesting it would be for the boys and girls of the Kom tribe to try sand animation themselves. They can totally do it! We all have grown up playing with sand, making little castles and mountains with it as kids. So in that sense we are not entirely alien to the medium. Sand animation would just be an extension of playing with sand. Or making a rangoli. It will be an interesting exercise for them.

In addition to the first part of a documentary film about Jan Svankmajer, available at:, the animation films watched today were:

Ashes (1994) by Frenc Cako, available from:
(a short film made using the medium of sand)

Dark and Light  (1989) by Jan Svankmajer, available from:

Historia naturae (Suita) 1967) by Jan Svankmajer, available from:

Zeel Sanghvi


  1. We have decided to make a short documentary explaining the project, the process and the other issues that the students are concerned with. I am intending to go to Manipur next month, to collect the other short film "Tapta" that was done as part of the Tales of the Tribes, so that it can be integrated into the series of animated tribal stories made by the Adivasi Arts Trust. I will also take the material developed by the Post Graduate students at NID, and the documentary, and present it to the Director of Art and Culture in Manipur, Madam Sushila Devi, and see if they would be willing to help support this project, perhaps through a workshop to introduce sand animation to Kom participants...lets hope that this development can take place.

  2. As the young animators have pointed out, by engaging more Kom involvement in this project, more accurate cultural details can be included in the animation film. We are still trying to get reference images from Augustine Kom regarding the actual traditional costume of the Kom, and we think that some of the Kom patterning could be included in the animation, if we had more engagement from Kom people in this production. However, it is really tough, considering the physical distance and the infrustructural limitations for communicating with the Kom in Manipur.