‘Chhoti Anandi’ paves the way to a revolution in Indian Animation

Chhoti Anandi
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An Indian super girl character has finally arrived! For the first time ever in the Indian animation world, a girl has been developed as the lead character. And it is none other than the most beloved ‘Anandi’ from the popular daily soap Balika Vadhu.

An original property of the leading Hindi GEC Colors, this animated show named Chhoti Anandi has been created by animation studio HopMotion and produced by the production house Sphereorigins. The series began airing from 17 January on Colors and Rishtey at 10 am and will continue to air for the next 12 Sundays thus driving the viewers across India during the kids’ hour.

The idea was rooted way back in 2013

The idea of creating an animation of the character Anandi from Balika Vadhu struck Sphereorigins founder Sunjoy Waddhwa and HopMotion Animation Studio’s CEO and founder Anish Patel in 2013. Both of them then presented it to Colors and ideated on how the animated world of Anandi would look like. As Sphereorigins has been the production house for Color’s still long running daily soap Balika Vadhu, the channel didn’t hesitate to give animation a chance with its popular character.

Chhoti Anandi has resonance with the grown up Anandi

When Balika Vadhu was initially started, the 12 year old character made a place in the hearts of not just adults but also kids who loved the bubbly girl who would teach life lessons with a cheerful smile.

Anish comments, “Although Anandi had turned into an adult in the serial people would always refer to the ‘Chhoti’ Anandi, as that character was very infectious. There was already a lot of love and appeal for the character. And, we chose to channelise this love into animation by re-creating the character.”

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Chhoti Anandi is different

In India, the animation space has always catered to boys. We have animated series like Chhota Bheem, Mighty Raju, Kisna and Motu Patlu that are male centric. “Most of the times, the boys watch these boy oriented animated shows and the girls end up watching daily soaps with their mothers at a very young age. There is nothing in this space for girls, no specific animated series for girls,” admits Anish.

The concept of the animated series revolves around the adventures of Anandi when she was 8 years old. It portrays her Rajasthan based village life with her friends before her child marriage. Anish clarifies, “It is a standalone show; we have just adopted the character from Balika Vadhu because the character was very strong and progressive. Apart from the protagonist, everything else is fresh.”

Animation has a lot of freedom as compared to live action

Animation can create what live action can’t… “We didn’t want to do what could be done in live action. With animation you can do anything hypothetical and unimaginable. Sky’s the limit!” he expounds.

Therefore, the series will witness various stories of Chhoti Anandi adventuring in the dinosaur world, coal mine, air balloon, time travel, toy car, haunted haveli, space and also interacting with a bull, lion, robot, dinosaur, skeletons, spirits and much more. “We made the character fly, run, fight, play and enjoy herself with extraordinary props which would be impossible in live action,” he admits.

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Idea, time and effort created Chhoti Anandi

The entire animation was created by HopMotion team in their studio in the span of one and a half year. A team of around 30 people worked closely to deliver 26 episodes of 22 minutes each. As each episode was a different story with a different set, the animation demanded time and detailing. The entire story was written by Anish Patel while the screen plays were written by his wife Carmen Zainabadi. There were also few freelance writers Aarsh Vora and Marmabandha Gavhane who contributed towards the ideas and stories for few episodes.

He highlights, “HopMotion follows a paperless production pipeline. In live action, the film is created in the edit because there is a lot of footage available as there are multiple camera angles and lighting techniques. But in animation, the scenes are created in the process of storyboarding. The episode is created at the animatic level as the visualisation of the background and the addition of props takes place during this process.”

From writing to creating the final cut

Once the script was written, the draft was then given to the story boarders to experiment. This was then followed by the process of thumbnailing each scene from the script by the artists.

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He explains, “The artists began to give us the thumbnails or rough rushes. Together as a team, we then analysed the thumbnails creatively. We checked if the scene looked perfect according to the story, the kind of emotion that had to be evoked, background setting and character development.”

Once the thumbnails were locked, the next process was a timed animatic. This process is like pre-animation, the poses and movements are decided and the animators know what and how to animate exactly. After the animatics were finalised, the background score and voicing of the characters was added. The team of HopMotion along with Sphereorigins then presented an alpha version of the show to Colors who added their inputs and the changes that they wished. So, the entire back and forth of the script occurred at the animatic level.

Music and Voice over added the traditional Indian feel

The entire sound design, editing and recording of the voice over was done by Sujoy Sen. Though the dialogues were written by Anish and his team, Sujoy Sen directed the sound, voice over, and crowd effects including the background score. ‘Song becomes a medium to connect to the show’, therefore the title track was kept simple and bubbly just like the character.

Sujoy Sen says, “The entire sound has a Rajasthani feel along with western incursions. There is absolutely no repetition in the music as the sound was completely designed in a creative way. Around 20 artists including kids were roped to do the voice over.” Sujoy used Pro Tools to create the sound design as he was directly involved in the entire production process.

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Toon Boom is a boon to animation

Toon Boom Harmony was the software used to create the entire 2D animation. Storyboard pro was used to create the entire storyboarding and character design. Photoshop was used in few portions, just to create some of the backgrounds whereas Maya was used to create 3D props for few scenes.

Anish says, “There are few scenes where we used 3D props. For example, we created a 3D toy car and a video game where the characters compete in a toy car race and enter a video game respectively. Toon Boom allows to seamlessly blend 3D Maya models with 2D setting in less rendering time.”

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Background creation is traditional yet effective

Though the entire story revolves in the home town where Anandi resides, HopMotion tried to break the monotony by creating one episode in the village and the next in all together a different environment. Each episode have different adventures which Hopmotion says are based in different environment.

“We created the background and character design with a specific colour palette maintaining the Indian look. As the background is of the original town as in Balika Vadhu, we tried to associate even the character design to Rajasthan,” he explains.

Characters add life to the adventure

The protagonist Anandi is shown as an 8 year old girl who enjoys with her friends before any of her marriage drama begins. In the serial, Anandi had two friends named Champa and Phuli, these characters are integrated in the animated series as well. Champa is shown slightly elder to Anandi and is concerned about her beauty while Phuli is the same age as the protagonist but is a slow learner.

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Along with this, two other boy characters named Nattu and Chiku were created. Nattu is the same age as Anandi and displays the male power while Chiku is the quite notorious toddler and adds the humour element to every adventure. There is another character named Goli, the Zamindaar who plays the role of an antagonist and acts as a medium of conflict.

HopMotion scriptwriter, Carmen says, “Considering the character of Anandi in Balika Vadhu, we created the entire series to source Anandi’s character. The whole idea was to keep it simple, fun, entertaining and educative but not preachy.”

Production played a major role in the final stages

The production house Sphereorigins was involved with the creative inputs. They coordinated with the channel, the sound studio and HopMotion too.

“We provided writing and animation services. Sphere Origins did the edit and the mastering. As they were the producers they managed the financial aspects and created everything as per the requirement of the channel,” comments Anish.

Sphereorigins CEO, Sunjoy Wadhwa says, “We managed the entire assembly of the series, right from compiling the animation to music to the final animatics. The mastering and editing was done by Sphere Origins from our end. Also, we were responsible for pitching the idea to the channel and producing the final content. In short, we put everything together.”

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Harmony was a challenge

According to Anish, the most difficult task was to find Toon Boom Harmony animators. Since there are a few Harmony animators, Anish and his production head, Neel Lukkani had to train studio artists in the software. This process of learning and experimenting took time, so the start was tough for the team.

Chhoti Anandi aims to educate and entertain…

The little protagonist is shown with distinct features of a detective, fighter, saviour, solution finder and victory queen. Anish says, “No mindless violence, gags for the sake of it, unnecessary chase comedy or action packed plot was created. We focused on entertaining along with the thought of educating as we aimed to inspire kids and entertain adults too.”

Just like the daily soap where an intense message is conveyed at the end, there are in depth messages in Chhoti Anandi too. The story itself portrays and helps create better individuals.

The leading Hindi GEC Colors with production house Sphereorigins have experimented by tapping potential HopMotion Studio to create the first ever female animated ideal Chhoti Anandi. Well, this creation may pave a way for other GECs to give animation a notable space and produce localised content for the audience to cherish.

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