When a bunch of students got together to make the most of a one-a-half day-long train journey, the result was a short film that had acclaimed filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli gushing. Rail Gaadi, the 15-minute stop motion animation movie made by the students of Arena Animation institute in Bangalore, is about nefarious activities that usually take place inside Indian trains. The challenging subject had Kasaravalli saying: “I admire the courage and conviction of these students who took up such a challenging subject for their first filmmaking attempt.”
The idea first occurred to Kareem Meppadi, a faculty member at the institute. The Animation Society of India was having its annual festival in Mumbai, an event that brings together animators. Meppadi and his students of diploma in animation engineering were planning to attend it.
“We were staring at a long train trip, which is usually spent chatting and lazing about. Instead of wasting that time, let us do something creative with it, Meppadi sir suggested. He had already discussed a movie idea with Arun S, a cinematographer, and together we decided to write a script,” recalled Tejashwini S, a former student of the institute who wrote Rail Gaadi’s screenplay.
The students, 25 of them, were clear that the movie should have a strong theme to tackle crime in the society. That is how they decided to look at crimes like robbery, human trafficking, rapes, drug-use and so on in the film. “We students decided to divide all the work, preproduction, acting and postproduction, among ourselves and leave the direction to Meppadi sir,” 20-year-old Manjula Jayadev, who played the role of a ruthless mother who sells her adolescent daughter, recalled. “We shot about 25,000 animated frames. Using software like Premiere, Aftereffects and Sound Forge, we edited them. Boys in our group did most of the sound and video editing,” she added.
The protagonist of their film is Mr Paper, an animated face drawn on a white piece of paper. There is also a young boy named Suraj who plays witness to several crimes that occur in the train and decides to complain about these to the authorities. Suraj and Mr Paper fail in their attempt to clean up the crime network operating in trains but the students behind the movie want it to create awareness among the hapless public who fall prey to crimes.
“This effort is laudable because the film draws attention to degeneration of our value system. When I was just out of college, I too wanted to make movies that would sensitise the public. This film is indeed significant to me,” Kasaravalli said, while releasing the film on Friday.
“Rail Gaadi is an excellent example of how new technology has released films from the traditional shackles of producers as films can be made on very small budgets,” he said.
The film is available on Youtube, Facebook and other social media sites.