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With Toonpur Ka Superhero,Bollywood has its first live-action animation film.

Written by Debesh Banerjee | New Delhi | Published: December 12, 2010 4:56:39 pm

With Toonpur Ka Superhero,Bollywood has its first live-action animation film.

Picture this: Ajay Devgn,used to romancing pretty women on screen,falls for a prop — a five-foot stick with a tennis ball tied to its head. Of course,it transforms into a voluptuous woman called Loveena,as would happen in a typical Bollywood plot. But Loveena is not human. She is a cartoon,unlike the flesh-and-blood Devgn.

Welcome to the world of live-action animation,which makes its debut in Bollywood with Toonpur Ka Superhero. It releases on December 24 and is made by Kireet Khurana,son of Bhim Sain,India’s animation pioneer who created the popular animated clip,Ek Anek. The cast of India’s first live-action,3D animated feature film: two humans — Devgn and Kajol,along with 18 animated characters plus 100 animated extras. Devgn plays an action hero who fakes his stunts. While performing a stunt,he gets knocked out cold,waking up to find himself amidst a gathering of toons under the earth’s surface. He gets caught between two warring toon factions,Devtoons and Toonasurs.

While Hollywood live-action animation flicks such as Alice In Wonderland,Space Jam and Who Framed Rogger Rabbit make human-cartoon interactions look effortless and natural,there are doubts that Toonpur Ka Superhero won’t match up. While the Hollywood flicks are meant to be watched by adults as much as by children,Toonpur Ka Superhero looks more like it’s made for children.

Khurana thinks the comparisons are unfair. “Typically,animation or live-action animation movies are made at a cost of $80- $120 million. Toonpur is made at one-tenth of that (Rs 40 crore). To draw qualitative parallels with Hollywood would be inappropriate,” he says.

Though Devgn and Kajol were signed up for the film in 2007,the animation process began only last year,after finding producers. “It is tough to get someone to finance an animation project in India. People are still wary of box-office results,” he says. Previous animation films such as Hanuman Returns and YRF’s Roadside Romeo sank at the box office.

But that didn’t deter Khurana,who has previously made animated commercials and a dozen animation short films,from pushing ahead with the film. After all,Khurana began animating at the age of six,helping his father on the short film Mahagiri. “Dad required amateur sketches of an elephant and I pitched in. But the film was stalled due to financial constraints,” he says. After returning from Sheridan College,Toronto,in 1994 with a degree in classical animation,Khurana completed the remaining sequences and in the following year,received the President’s National Award for Mahagiri. “I took to animation like a fish to water. The inspiration was my father. His knowledge and studio were unique in India when people barely knew animation,” says Khurana,who made three animated short films by the time he was 20,and has won five Presidents’ National Awards.

For his biggest venture,Toonpur Ka Superhero,he did 80 per cent of the shoot on chroma. Some 200 animators,artists and compositors from four different studios worked on it even as Khurana supervised them from his Bandra office,via email. “The work was happening simultaneously in 10 different locations and I was constantly approving and suggesting sketches. The suggestions were pointed,like instructions about clearer silhouettes,more head tilt for characters,enhanced curves etc. The sketches were uploaded on to central servers,” says Khurana,who also had an in-house team of 30 animators. Jack Gill,stunt supervisor of Hollywood films like Terminator and Pearl Harbour,choreographed Devgn’s action sequences.

Khurana did not take Sain’s help in making the film. “The technology is totally different from what it was when he was in his prime,” he says,The father-son duo though plan to begin work on their stalled project,Jadu Ka Kaleen,for which Sain wrote the screenplay and dialogues nine years ago. “I am learning 3D techniques for this film. I am struggling with it but enjoying the process. Time I learnt something from Kireet,” he says.

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