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Interview English

This film is part of a certain guilt I had to acknowledge, says Debjyoti Saha on his animated video from the Korona series

 The illustrator's viral video focuses on the stark difference in living conditions of the privileged and the migrant workers in the lockdown. 

Roushni Sarkar

Mumbai-based illustrator Debjyoti Saha’s recent animated video from the Korona series reflects the various issues that have come to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic. The viral animated video, especially focuses on the stark difference in the living conditions of the privileged and the migrant workers during the lockdown.

Saha has always been focusing on realistic issues in his work. Speaking to Cinestaan.com, he elaborates on the reasons that pushed him to conceive the entire project. While sharing the importance of creating more socially relevant content, he also talks about his upcoming projects.

Tell us about the moment you felt the urge to create this animated content, which is bold, comprehensive and hard-hitting?

The animated video is part of an ongoing personal series, Korona, that I've been working on during this pandemic. I wanted to talk about the migrant crisis in the country since its inception. Strangely, I have noticed a pattern of news getting constantly irrelevant with new news. Even though the various problems of the migrants were highlighted at various instances, the urgency died away with new articles and features. I'm sure this article will meet a similar fate, but their misery won't.

This video was created to spread the message of acknowledging our privilege and using it to better the lives of the unfortunate in our own ways. Public memory is short. This news will soon fade away, but I hope the message stays.

How did you conceive the synchronization between the visuals. For example, while the privileged are having a cool shower, the migrant workers are being showered by disinfectants. Also, if you could talk about the haunting background score?

Satire works really well to make an impact in the audience's mind. It is a complex feeling where you immediately connect to the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices and recognize how you yourself are part of the problem. The film was created in light of all the recent events showing the harsh reality of migrants, which in comparison to other lifestyles seems to be a life of extreme discomfort.

A split screen showing the stark contrast only helps us recognize and accept our privilege. Although ideally, I would have liked to work on an original background score for the video, but due to a shortage of time I wasn't able to. But I had a clear idea of the mood I wanted to create and Hans Zimmer's original soundtrack from the film Dunkirk (2017) struck a chord and fit perfectly in the context and mood.

How important do you think it is to tell the truth at a time where most media houses have sold their conscience, and how important is it to create a powerful parallel narrative?

Dialogue is extremely important for a conversation, be it between two individuals or a person and the country. There is no absolute truth, and alternate sources of information convey what is equally important and may not have been covered by other media, for any reason whatsoever. It is important to build your understanding of a situation after weighing in these factors to have a more wholesome perspective of the subject.

However, counter sources of information won't necessarily lead to a proper conclusion. With the advent of fake news sources, it is important for every individual to verify their sources of information before building their perspective according to it.

While the underprivileged are simply fighting for survival, people inside their homes are also going through mental stress and a kind of disillusionment due to the lockdown.  Do you think they are prepared to face reality and read content that tells the truth?

We all have different lives and the film doesn't compare them directly. The lockdown has proved to be a major problem for people dealing with anxiety and depression. These issues cannot be directly compared and prioritised because what might be important to me, might not be the same for you.

My work is personal. It is a reaction to my own life and environment. This film is a result of what I felt, as part of a certain guilt, which I thought I must acknowledge. Our privilege depends on a lot of factors, but a few of those problems seem quite trivial when you see someone else's life in comparison, and that helps you get more perspective. There's more to acknowledging the guilt of privilege.

Do you think that at this hour, creativity should primarily be channelised to create awareness?

My work has always revolved around people. I'm a living, thinking human being who responds naturally to whatever is happening around my socio-political environment, through my work. My work has always been an honest comment on our society, and I'm glad the message resonates with many.

Are you planning to do more such projects in the future? Have you conceptualized some already?

There are five films already that are a part of the Korona series. It is a great way to document modern social problems in the midst of a pandemic. And I'd like to focus on a few more problems by end of this. So yes, there's more to this.