Review Fix chats with Upamanyu Bhattacharyya and Kalp Sanghvi, who discuss their new film, Wade.
About Upamanyu Bhattacharyya:
Co-director Upamanyu Bhattacharyya is an animator, filmmaker, comic artist and illustrator. Upamanyu co-directed the highly acclaimed short film Wade with Kalp Sanghvi. As a founding partner of Ghost Animation in Kolkata, he has worked on a wide range of animation and illustration projects for clients including Google, Amazon, and Pengin. Bhattacharyya worked on the title sequence for acclaimed director Mani Ratnam’s film OK Kanmani, storyboarded his other film Kaatru Veliyidai and has also worked with Academy Award winning composer A.R. Rahman to create storyboards for his VR project Le Musk. Currently, he is finishing his work on his next solo animated short Ten, a dark comedy about the mass exodus from Bangladesh in 1971 and is developing his animated feature City of Threads, set in Ahmedabad in the 1960’s.
About Kalp Sanghvi:
Co-director Kalp Sanghvi is also an animation filmmaker and illustrator who co-founded Ghost Animation in Kolkata in 2015. He has worked on various animation and illustration projects for clients including Amazon and Sony Entertainment India. Kalp has worked on title sequences for feature films including acclaimed director Umesh Shukla’s 102 Not Out, featuring Amitabh Bachchan & Rishi Kapoor.
He is developing his first animated series Rajbari: The Ancestral House, a fantasy family drama set in Kolkata and working on an animated short film about tiger conservation in collaboration with the Wildlife Trust of India called Remains.
Review Fix: Why is the topic of this film important today?
Upamanyu Bhattacharyya: Climate change is creeping into our lives slowly but surely. We’re usually overwhelmed by a lot of data and predictions, but a lot of them focus on sea level rise, temperature rise and so on without ever constructing a plausible picture of the human fallout of climate change. The people contributing the least to climate change will probably be the ones to suffer the greatest from displacement, resource shortage and so on.
Review Fix: What inspired this film?
Kalp Sanghvi: The city of Kolkata itself inspired us a lot, in addition to a lot of reading we did around the subject of climate change in the Sundarbans. Midway through production, we also read ‘The Great Derangement ‘ by Amitav Ghosh and ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ by David Foster Wallace, which helped validate a lot of the scenarios we put in our story.
Review Fix: Why was ‘Wade’ a perfect title for this short?
Bhattacharyya: In the film, there’s so much water that you can’t even run anymore, all you can do is Wade.
Review Fix: How difficult was this film to put together?
Sanghvi: It’s always a challenge to put together an animated short. Being a totally independent film, we had to think of ways to keep carrying on, including pausing work to earn from commercial jobs and then moving on once we’d saved enough. We had a very encouraging response to our crowdfunding campaign in 2016, which gave us both the funds and motivation to make a substantial part of the animation. Overall we had a lot of fun and a lot of help from many, many talented artists from all over India.
Review Fix: How have the audiences been reacting to Wade?
Bhattacharyya: So far so good, they seem to be reacting substantially to the key moments of the film. There are some parts of the film which seem to effectively elicit loud gasps and moans, which is always satisfying to a filmmaker. A lot of people come to us with a lot of different interpretations of the events of the film, which is also something we’re happy with.
Review Fix: What films have inspired it the most?
Sanghvi: It takes a lot of inspiration from live action films for its pacing, edit and cinematography. ‘Seven Samurai’ and ‘Yojimbo’ from Kurosawa, the Dollars Trilogy from Leone, and more recently, ‘The Host’ and ‘Snowpiercer’ by Bong Joon Ho.
Wade was scheduled to screen at Annecy International Film Festival and Palm Springs International ShortFest but due to the recent situation with the Coronavirus, these festivals screened online. What are your thoughts on this and do you think a virtual film festival could have the same impact as an in-attendance film festival?
It’s certainly a different situation. While an in person festival has the benefits of meeting people and spontaneously breaking off into very enriching discussions, an online festival becomes very accessible to everyone and even becomes a viable option for people who wouldn’t usually even attend a festival. While we hope to return to the magic of big screens and happy crowds soon, there’s been a lot of extra effort put in by festival organisers and attendees to interact, reach out and have a good online experience. Goes to show that the filmmaking community is a really warm space.
Review Fix: What have you learned about yourselves through this entire process?
Bhattacharyya: We’ve learned that we’re (thankfully) largely patient individuals and that we’re likely capable of going through this whole process again for even a longer format film. We’ve learnt to deal with slight amounts of disappointment. But the happiest feeling is we finally feel we’re in the right field.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Sanghvi: We’re currently working to round off an anthology of short films at Ghost Animation, after which we’re moving on to a series called ‘Rajbari’, a fantasy family drama set in a Kolkata of the 1990s, and an animated feature film called ‘Threads’, set in Ahmedabad during the 1970s.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Bhattacharyya: We think it’s a very important time for storytellers everywhere to try engaging with our shared futures during climate change. It would be great to see a lot of work imagining social solutions and slowly encourage everyone to make communities that stick together in the face of disaster. The world seems to be an increasingly hostile place, with very aggressively defined territories and groups. We need that to change so as to not be broken apart by climate change, and stories can definitely drive that change.