The making of “Chai Break”
The experimental workshop was conducted by Isabel Herguera, Director of Animac (Spain). However, it wasn’t decided that ‘sand’ would be the medium at such an early stage. Isabel had asked us to make a choice between a poem called ‘Aliens’ or a paragraph called ‘The Cut up Method’. We collectively selected the Cut up Method. This method explains that random images are selected and stitched with a common thread in order to create a narrative.
We would take a time out early in the mornings to sketch life at Ahmedabad. The purpose of this was not only to improve one’s sketching but instead to spend time with one another as we were going to be stuck with each other for the next 4 months. Later in the day, Isabel would inspire us with an overdose of experimental films from her wonderful collection.
We also did some interesting classroom activities for eg: Once we all sat in a circle around a chair. After sketching the chair from our positions, we would interchange our places. We played the different sketches of the chair in a video and miraculously we could see the chair rotating. The purpose of this was to blend our different styles together with movement.
Side by side, we also started collecting ideas for the sound of our film. We had the names of 9 sounds written on the board.
- Cell phone beep
- Pencil + Water
- Deep Under
- Great Silence
- Waves (Radio)
- Flush (Bridge game)
Now, we needed to find a common thread for the visuals. We decided that the common thread would be a walk to the local Chai wala. Each of our experiences (real as well as imaginative) would be presented the next morning in the form of illustrations.
(Funny note: The day we went for the walk happened to be the same day that the 20-20 cricket world cup finals was taking place between India and Pakistan. After the walk, we rushed to the screening, lucky enough to catch the 2nd innings.)
The next morning we selected the most interesting visuals and paired them up with the sounds. Later that evening, we worked on the transitions between the visuals and this is how we derived our storyboard.
We decided on the name ‘Chai break’ as it was a common term used during our classes with Isabel. Each time we were overdosed with the sessions, we would ask for a ‘Chai break’.
Till now, we hadn’t decided that sand would be the medium, although it was always a consideration. There were possibilities of us doing oil on glass or even wall animation. One day we decided to try out sand and we were all so fascinated with the medium and there was no turning back. It was an easy choice. We washed, strained and dried the sand in order to prepare it for the final animation. Drying the sand consumed an entire week. In the meanwhile we had finished the technical setup.
We did some warm up exercises before starting the final animation. Pairs of us would animate for 10 minutes and the next pair would take over from where we left off and so on.
We decided that we would work in shifts according to the timings that would suit us. 4 shifts were formed.
Dawa, debjani and myself – morning shift
Arpit and Utsav – afternoon shift
Mrinalini and Ayswaria – evening shift
Rajesh, Troy and Grishma – night shift
When we first started animating, we were drawing on sand with the back of a paint brush. It was almost as if we were doing cell animation on sand. Isabel had walked in and mentioned that what we were doing was completely wrong. We had to let the sand tell the story and take advantage of the medium. We would re watch some sand animation films (Caroline leaf’s ‘Metamorphosis’ and ‘The Street’) with a new point of view. Every morning things would move extremely slowly for the first hour. Later, we would hit a rhythm and find it hard to stop.
After a while Isabel had to return to Spain. But she had boosted us with enough of maturity and confidence to complete the rest of the film without her guidance. Vaibhav’s claymation course had already begun and for a couple of weeks we were balancing production of ‘Chai break’ as well as pre production of ‘0200’ at the same time. This was an extremely difficult situation but over time, the production of Chai break finally concluded.
Our juniors Anuj and Jaikar helped us with the experimental music. We recorded many sessions of them playing on various pots with an intention of creating a ‘street like’ soundtrack. The train horn was made by blowing air through an empty plastic bottle.
The best part of sand animation is that the post production work is minimal compared to other mediums. All we had to do was put together the final soundtrack and retime the visuals along with the sound. The entire film was completed after a span of 4 months.