NDTV Good Times
You might miss him in a room, but never his hands. Dhimant Vyas is an artist on the move. He speaks little, instead lets his hands do all the talking. This animation artist has made a career out of clay and the little models that surround him are his best friends.
Unlike computer-generated animation where models are created and animated using softwares, clay animation or claymation relies more on the talent in a person’s hands and observation skills.
And so for the first-time ever, Bollywood moulded itself to welcome claymation into its movies.
Claymation is just about picking up in India with a spattering of ad films using this complex and detailed form of animation. A part of stopmotion animation, it uses characters made of clay that are animated frame by frame by physically moving it. Artists then capture it on camera.
Claymation is more time-consuming and expensive compared to 2-d and 3-d. But it offers better textures and scope for detailing. Kaka as he is fondly called by people in the industry, had a tall task - animate a 3-minute long title sequence for Taare Zameen Par.
Dhimant sketched a storyboard, discussed it with Aamir Khan and after a few brainstorming sessions, the animator and his lean team of three sat together to take it to the next step. Mould, sculpt, cut and bend - and voila - you have a character from out of space!
The film’s hero - Ishaan’s dreams covered a wide spectrum of things from animals, flowers to playthings. So whether it was a peacock morphing into grass or a floating octopus, each and every element was a clay model and was quite complex to create.
These are generally 3-d in nature. But Dhimant adapted it to suit the stiff deadline given to him and came up with a new technique called ‘embossed claymation’. His models were actually 2-d that could be placed on a surface and animated.
But with proper lighting, the 2-d models can be made to look 3-d in less time and with minimal preparation.
On a clear white sheet, Dhimant places a red fish and creates a bubble for the purple fish- the camera hovering above captures a shot of this. Next, he moves the red fish a tad towards the purple fish and places an extra bubble for the purple. Another shot by the camera, and this painstaking process goes on.
With professional lighting, these characters were ready to be a part of a feature film. When you transfer all these images into a sequence onto a computer, you get a seamless movement of the fish swimming towards each other, fins flapping and water bubbles floating.
There were no cuts in filming this 3-minute claymation title. Perfection in every frame, or else even the tiniest of mistakes would get magnified on the large-screen. Dhimant and his men sweated it out for two whole months, animating 3-5 seconds a day.
Every time they made a mistake, they had to start all over again. Once the animation was done, another group helped with compositing and backgrounds.
The film moved many and won a lot of accolades. It wasn’t the usual Bollywood flick; instead it engaged us and made us feel for Ishaan. His dreams were integral to the character he was playing and what he couldn’t…his dreams conveyed.
But it was Dhimant and his band of animators who in reality painted Ishaan’s world using clay, gave it the final shape and made sure that the dreams were finally realised.