Despite huge 'Kochadaiiyaan' box office collections, animation films beaten hollow by live action movies

Written by Priya Adivarekar | Mumbai | Updated: May 31 2014, 16:39pm hrs
RajinikanthDespite the impressive revenues notched up by Kochadaiiyaan, courtesy the presence of Rajinikanth, animation films (from India) still fall behind live-action films.
It was the first Indian film to use motion capture technology, but the animated Kochadaiiyaan that also had superstar Rajinikanth in parts raked in Rs 25 crore during its first weekend for the Tamil version, the superstars core market. The figure is excellent for an animation film, but maybe a notch lower than what a live-action Rajinikanth film would fetch there, bringing home the fact that an Indian animation film holds a limited appeal for our audience.

The postponement of the release date affected the films business to some extent. Also, animation films produced in India havent found whole-hearted mandate from the audience so far, mentioned Adarsh. A black ticket seller outside the Aurora theatre in Mumbai, a favourite with Rajinis fans stated that, Cartoon picture hone ke wajah se response kam hain. All my tickets are usually sold out an hour before the show, but this time, only the stall tickets were the first ones to get picked up.

The reluctance of the audience to step into theatres to watch an animation film has become the film-makers bane. The high profile Mahabharata 3D made on a budget of Rs 40 crore did a business of only about six crore at the box-office, while Nikhil Advanis National Award winning film Delhi Safari garnered Rs 1. 53 crore in its one week run! Says Kirit Khurana who made Toonpur Ka Superhero, We dont have the culture of watching animation films. Youngsters in the age-group of 18-25, which forms a chunk of the audience would prefer to watch a romcom instead . Children on the other hand are made to watch these films on a DVD at home.

This is one of the reason why animation films do not have impressive collections. Films like Hanuman earned Rs 5 lakh, Krishna and Kans earned Rs 20 lakh, Chhota Bheem (which is also a famous cartoon series) made Rs 45 lakh, Arjun earned ` 25 lakh and Son of Ram, Rs 5 lakh on day one. Mahabharat 3D is the only movie which has set a benchmark garnering Rs 55 lakhs on its opening day. Interestingly, Delhi Safari which earned Rs 1.53 crore in its week long run in India, managed to mop up Rs 10 crore in South Korea, according to Advani.

There are 130 plus animation movies that have been made, since The Banyan Tree (made by the Films Division of India) Indias first animation film was made in 1957. But the popular ones even after 50 years are just a handfulthey include Bal Ganesh franchise, Hanuman, Ramayana: The Epic, Delhi Safari, Chhota Bheem and Jumbo series. The first Indian 3D animated film was Roadside Romeo written and directed by Jugal Hansraj and a joint venture by Yash Raj Films and the Indian division of the Walt Disney Company.

Another reason why animation films do not have the required impact, according to Advani is that Indian studios do not promote an animation film like a mainstream film.

If a Frozen or Ice Age can make the kind of money they can in Indian markets, then why cant Indian animation films My film has won awards in France and Japan and opened with 250 prints in South Korea. But why did it not work in India Because the Indian studios do not promote an animation film aggressively. Thats the first thing that one needs to understand.

When a Disney promotes a Frozen they dont promote it as an apology. They promote it as if it is their main film of the year. The makers of Cinderella that will release in 2015 have already started their promotions with a butterfly touching a glass shoe. They promote it as they would a Transformers. They put their might behind the marketing because they realise there is a huge market out there. They realise that animation films can touch lives, explained Advani.

The only way, to attract the audience, according to Advani, is to change the mindset of the marketing team and make them realise that they are not dealing with a bachche log ki picture.

I am not in a position to comment about Kochadaiiyaan as I havent seen the film, but it was not marketed like a Rajinikanth starrer say a Robot or a Sivaji..., he added.

Film-maker Ketan Mehta founder of Indias first animation studio, Maya Digital Studios and who has made Ramayana: The Epic says that animation is a 70 year-old industry in the West where adults have grown up on these films. In India, the market is still in its infancy, but growing gradually. The main reason is that we have a low cost of production.

International animation films are made on a budget of 15 million dollars and we try to make it in two million dollars, so the production quality is not up to the mark. Also for a film to earn international acceptance, film-makers need to experiment with different subjects. We should go beyond the mythological and kid stuff and make universal stories that appeal to a wider audience, said Mehta.

Advani is of the opinion that India has significant talent doing the ground work for most animation studios like Sony and Universal, but the talent doesnt have time and money when it comes to making Indian animation films. If the money runs out, they will be unable to achieve international standards. I kept giving money for seven years for Delhi Safari and told them to keep going, stated Advani.

While a section of film-makers committed to making animation films are trying their best to carve a niche for this genre of films, the response to the new format Rajini film, brings to the fore that Indian animation movies have a long way to go when it comes to content and marketing.