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MIFF 2018: Legendary animator Bhimsain Khurana honoured with retrospective

The 82-year-old filmmaker, who began his journey with the Films Division as a background artist in 1961, was felicitated with screenings from his illustrious career at the Mumbai International Film Festival.

Bhimsain and Kireet Khurana

Sonal Pandya

Sixteen-time National award-winner Bhimsain Khurana, one of the foremost names in Indian animation, was honoured on Monday, 29 January, with a retrospective of his work at the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF), which began on 28 January and will end on 3 February, at the Films Division complex in Mumbai.

The veteran animator and filmmaker was present as he was felicitated by MIFF director Manish Desai, chief guest writer-director Amole Gupte, and Khurana's son Kireet, a writer and animator in his own right. 

Kireet introduced 10 of his father's films and a few others on which the father-son duo worked together. He told the assembled audience, "In 1961, at this very place, a young artist from Lucknow came with an interview letter in his hand, and he comes to this very place, Films Division, and he gets the job as a background artist. Just like all migrants, he wants to make a mark in the city. He learns animation under the tutelage of Ram Mohan while contributing on several important films. [Today] is a day of homecoming."

He thanked the festival and its organizers for felicitating his father and said this retrospective, though long overdue, has brought life in full circle for the man popularly known simply as Bhimsain.

Kireet added that "the hotbed of Indian animation, the revolution, started at Films Division. Today, India is an animation superpower because many individuals have been mentored by Bhimsain and Ram Mohan."

The Films Division had a large contribution in supporting and promoting animation in those days. "The entire history may have been forgotten, but it’s something to be mindful to those of us connected with the industry for 30 years and more," Kireet Khurana said.

Filmmaker Amole Gupte came up to say a few words before the short films were screened. He said he first discovered Bhimsain's work with the 1977 landmark short animation film, Ek Anek Aur Ekta. 

Further, "for a while, after assisting Ketan Mehta and others, I took a sabbatical. I was painting for 10 years of my life and created employment for myself by doodling hours on end and it resulted in three years of work which I opened at Prithvi Gallery and hey! Bhimsain was there," he recalled.

Gupte also revealed that he borrowed the title of his 2007 film Taare Zameen Par from a line (‘Jab taare zameen par chalte hain’) in the cult song 'Do Deewane Shahar Mein' sung by Bhupinder Singh and Runa Laila for Bhimsain's film Gharaonda (1977). "I owe a big one to you, Sir," he said, thanking the veteran.

Amongst the iconic animation films shown at the retrospective from Bhimsain's four-decade-long career was The Climb (1970), Mehmaan (1975) and Business Is People (1975).

The first is a one-minute film which won the Silver Hugo at the Chicago International Film Festival and led to Bhimsain launching his own production house, Climb Films.

Mehmaan, an eight-minute Hindi animated short, succinctly highlighted the inner turmoil and plight of a young girl as she adjusts to life with more siblings. The innocent little girl notices that there are fewer resources and less time for her with every new child that enters the family.

Business Is People won the National award for its humorous but honest depiction of man-versus-machine-versus-money.

Famous names like Salil Chowdhury, Vasant Desai, Gulzar, Sharmila Tagore and Tabassum were part of Bhimsain's films. Salil Chowdhury scored the music for Kahani Har Zamane Ki (1971) while Vasant Desai was behind the iconic song 'Ek Chidiya Anek Chidiya' from Ek Anek Aur Ekta (1977). Tabassum narrated the Hindi short Mahagiri (1994) while Gulzar and Tagore lent their voices for Munni (1976), which used the popular multi-plane technique for the first time in India.

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Mumbai International Film Festival