Barsaat - An Animated Musical Short

Created By Ashwin Syam & Vipin SamuelProduced By Samuel Joshua • Shaila Samuel • Vipin SamuelCo-Produced By Ashwin Syam • Akshay Anil Pillai • Mohamed Abdul Rahman Website Content Written By Ritu Gopal

Barsaat (translation from Hindi: ‘Rain’) is an animated musical short set to a melodious song narrating a story of a love that evolves through the rainy days of life. This is a tale about the journey of a couple that looks to the ever-changing sky, reminiscing their youth and the countless moments from all that they witnessed together. The couple begins life together and grows into a family of three, only to find out that their child has an illness with little to no hope for a cure. Where this inescapable eventuality takes them, and how they cope with the loss, forms the story. The music and lyrics blend flavours of India’s film, indie and pop genres to create a soul-stirring narration of the fleeting nature of life, and the human endeavour to rediscover oneself both in solitude and togetherness. The setting is inspired by Munnar, a hill station in Idukki, Kerala, and shows the couple living on a green and misty mountainside. The animated visuals are predominantly drawn from two cyclical elements of nature - ‘rain’ and ‘Neelakurunji flowers’. These were woven into the story to depict the parallels between nature and human emotion, and the element of time.

The Journey of the Animation Project

Barsaat’s journey began in 2016 with a melody, a story, and a dream to picturise it. Our love for animation sparked the curiosity to experiment with what was initially a passion project. Ashwin had composed a melody for a college assignment, and was keen to create a music video with a series of images. The plot came from him observing his grandfather coping with the loss of his grandmother after decades of companionship. Ashwin approached lyricist Gaurav Digga who introduced the canvas of rain on which the story was painted. Vipin Samuel, the director, was keen to explore how this could be presented and began the screenplay.

From a video initially envisioned as a series of illustrated images portraying a couple from their youth to sunset years, a character arc and storyline emerged, leading to the idea of a short film. We were at that precipice where it felt exciting to venture into the exciting unknown as a team of three non-animators with a dream to bring an animation project to life.

Animation: A Limitless Storytelling Device

Animation is one of the most powerful tools of storytelling. In provoking the audacity to imagine the impossible and set a visual narrative to the wildest of ideas, it allows the use of fluid transitions to aid in creative jumps between sequences, which is virtually impossible in other mediums. India has a limitless realm of themes, homegrown stories, relatable character arcs and cultural perspectives that are waiting to receive the storytelling grandeur that they deserve.

In Barsaat, there are no static frames in portraying the environment, and the constant movement in every frame adds complexity and fluidity. Creating the constant circular motion transition between scenes, with the watercolour effect, attached a layer of difficulty in execution. A couple’s journey across 50 years of their lives is portrayed in a time frame of 6 minutes. This was achieved by using creative animation transition techniques which facilitate effortless transition from the couple being in their 20s to their 50s, in the blink of a second without any cuts. This technique expressed the emotional quotient as visualised, and fit appropriately into our vision for this story.

We would like to inspire the Indian industry to open avenues and expand budgets. Animated film title sequences and music videos are gaining popularity, and the vast potential of what one can depict through animation is on the horizon, waiting to be tapped. Barsaat is a snippet of our humble beginnings, and we want to play a key role in taking the country’s animation potential to its metamorphosis.

Creating a Team and Expanding into a Full-Fledged Production

The animation process began in 2018 with Padmashree Satyanarayana, an illustrator and our lead pre-visualisation artist, who created drawings and sketches based on the first draft of the screenplay. Neeti Sivakumar, the environment visualisation artist, also joined us. The storyboarding of Barsaat was almost completed between 2018 and 2019, and we went in search of a bigger team to support the magnitude of technical and creative work necessary for the project. From here on, all the energies were directed towards establishing a more full-fledged production and workflow, which propelled our process of building a production team from the ground up, a very rewarding aspect of the journey.

Creating Art During the Pandemic

We had begun to look for more animators and illustrators, and for a long time could not find anyone to expand our team. Handling production began to teach us lessons in the hardcore world of producing a film. The challenges grew and we felt like we were hitting a bottleneck, since we were funding the project with our personal finances. Right now, we were coming close to the end of 2020. At this stage, we entered the boundaries of the coronavirus. Through many of our personal setbacks, we had Barsaat to give us a feeling that there was something to look forward to and somewhere to channel our love for art while moving through difficult years. After a few trial and errors and experimentations with different animators and illustrators, we found Totem Creative, a 2D Animation Studio, in 2021. We grew into a team of thirty creatives from diverse backgrounds and skill sets. Located across different cities, we had worked remotely even before the pandemic and had a workflow going into it, deriving purpose, joy, and immense gratitude for one another, and the resources manifested in the making of this animated short. A substantial quantum of work was achieved during the pandemic. In the face of a world health crisis, we found home and joy in making Barsaat, and our shared artistic goals enabled smooth progress in the animation process.

The journey inspired Vipin to build a platform for creators to share ideas through film, with the dream of being limitless in concept and expression. The goal is to also support and sponsor projects by independent filmmakers and artists. This marked the birth of Vicarious Prism, Vipin’s production house that grew into being from Barsaat. The company’s upcoming projects in the realm of animation and film come from a long term vision of expressing the immense creative potential in India through mind-bending themes, visuals, and sound.

Director’s Cut

The director’s cut, replete with the initial drawing and animation experiments of Barsaat, is a nostalgic piece of art. The transformation from the time that the characters began to find their outlines being sketched on paper, to the final animated film, represents our learnings as animators. The variations found in the two versions have a unique aesthetic and heart, and makes for an interesting watch for those who are curious about the evolution of our imagination for the original story, song and visuals