Bengaluru: It started as a conversation three years ago on a long ride between home in Basava Nagar and the Infosys campus in Bengaluru’s Electronic City, where 43-year-old Ravishankar V. works as an HR professional. “Have you heard of Punyakoti?" his colleague Umesh Karanth asked him. He hadn’t heard of the Kannada folk song, popularly called govina haadu also.

So, he sat back and listened to the heart-warming story of an honest cow named Punyakoti and her encounter with a hungry tiger.

A cow caught by a tiger begs to let it go and feed its calf after which it would return. Unwilling, the tiger agrees, and the cow keeps the promise. Moved by its honesty, the tiger lets Punyakoti go and jumps off a cliff in shame.

“I was in tears," Ravishankar says. Drawn to the story’s larger issue of the ongoing conflict between man and nature, Ravishankar went on to write and publish the eponymous book Punyakoti in 2013

But it wasn’t enough. Ravishankar, Girish—who sketched illustrations for the book—and another friend were unwinding later at the Ulsoor Lake in Bengaluru.

The topic of their discussion was the nuances of filmmaking and by the end of the day, they had decided to make an animated film on Punyakoti in Sanskrit. On 1 January 2014, a Facebook page was set up and the team paid 500 to get the domain name Punyakoti.com and Puppetica Media.

“Like Antartica, America. We wanted it to mean a world of Puppets," he says.

It took almost a year to gather more details. “People had forgotten about Punyakoti, the message it carried," Ravishankar says.

It was hard going for the five-member core team that includes Rakesh P. Nair, Anvar Ali, Manoj Kannot, Girish and Ravishankar. No office, no studio, and initially, no money.

They listed on Wishberry, an online platform where people can run campaigns to raise funds.

Crowdfunding worked: 282 people contributed from 101 to even a few lakhs, adding up to 41,10,210.

Former Infosys BPO head Swami Swaminathan, the current head of HR (BPO) and former Infosys board member, Mohandas Pai, non-resident Indians and foreigners from Brazil and Singapore, among others, contributed to making of Punyakoti animation movie.

Eminent music composer Ilayaraja and actor Revathy are also involved in the project today. The team has completed 11 of the 30 scenes in the movie.

Puppetica Media got a special mention in the crowdfunding category at the Social Media for Empowerment Awards by the Digital Empowerment Foundation this year.

Previous chapter

With only a distant memory of being a copywriter in 1998, Ravishankar had resigned to life as an HR professional at Infosys. But the rest of the core team, all associated with the movie industry, knew the challenges. To start with, the budget for the movie was 1 crore.

Ravishankar called Ameeta Jadav, dean of Arts Institute in Atlanta, US and also his former boss when they worked on a CD ROM on an animated series on the Panchatantra in 1995. Jadav gave him 1 lakh and asked him to find 99 others like her.

Drawing inspiration from Lucia, a 2013 crowd-funded Kannada movie that went on to become a commercial success and gained a cult following, Ravishankar said they decided to explore the idea. The team approached Mohandas Pai and then Infosys Ltd co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy and got the funding ball rolling.

Challenges

The team needed to expand and seek outside help. Coordinating with freelancers became a challenge. The pace of funding did not necessarily reflect in pace of movie making. 5-6 lakh was lost as freelancers who accepted assignments failed to complete them, said Ravishankar.

Discipline and professionalism lacked in many animators. There are at least 19 departments that a shot goes through before it becomes an animation.

The other is raising the next round of funding for post production, marketing and distribution. The team has completed dubbing for most characters and is yet to fill in music to complete the film.

The digital advantage

With limited resources, the team had to rely on freeware and support of animators for technology.

The team used Audacity, a free software for recording and editing and Adobe Suite for animation. The decision to keep the movie 2D (two dimensional) allowed it not to rely too much on high-end technology but to keep the hand-drawn art element alive. It also allows for people to watch the movie on their smartphones.

However, the team is confident that the freeware will take them till pre-production and after that, it be clear if they would need more technology or customization.

Future plans

On 15 August, the team will host an exhibition in Bengaluru on the art of Punyakoti which will have 20 unique paintings and fabric items to highlight harmony in nature.

Social media re-tweets and Facebook shares by personalities such Malayalam actor Dulquer Salmaan, Malayalam filmmaker Anjali Menon, playback singer Shankar Mahadevan and others helped with publicity, Ravishankar says.

Mint has a strategic partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation, which hosts the Manthan and mBillionth awards.

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