Getting Animated with Sekhar Mukherjee

Chitrakatha, National Institute of Design’s International Student Animation Festival, is bigger than ever. The festival has acquired a position of eminence among the international student animation community over the years, and is now hitting the 10-year mark.

Running such a dynamic event takes a lot of sweat and love, and the man responsible for getting the show running is Sekhar Mukherjee, the festival director. AllAboutAnimation approached him for an interview in the midst of event pre-production, and he kindly obliged.

So, read on to find out what Chitrakatha is about, and which part he looks forward to the most.

This is Chitrakatha’s sixth edition and things are looking as busy as ever. What’s the journey been like?

Good, bad and ugly. It is very difficult to say it in a few lines; it perhaps needs another graphic novel to explain it all. In short, I can quote The Yardbirds songs – “Over, under, sideways down”.

Is Chitrakatha a festival for creators or viewers? Who’s wish are you fulfilling?

The whole idea of Chitrakatha was not to give a very black and white definition of it only being for either the viewers or the creators. A creator is a viewer and so is the viewer a creator. Since my teenage years, I was involved in being an active volunteer for quite a few film festivals at Calcutta, my home town, and thus my journey with design education and my obsession for graphic narratives – be it comics, cartoons caricatures, graphic novels, illustrations, animations, poster design, album covers, t-shirts, music, etc., began! It’s all about bringing the buffs together, the curious souls together. Chitrakatha is, and has always been, a kaleidoscopic gathering of everyone but not necessarily the mainstream sense of being.

Can you select a few highlight events for Chitrakatha 2017? Things everyone must attend?

Mainly the competition screenings; 76 student entries have been shortlist from the 600 odd entries that have come in from all over the world! It is worth looking at! Also, not to forget, the program about ‘Animation Beyond Aspect Ratio’ by Francois Chalet, the closing sessions on ‘Gondwana’. And lastly, the opportunity to be an open slate and conversing with strangers – the motto of Chitrakatha. This essence of the festival caters not only to Chitrakatha ‘17 but all the Chitrakathas since the beginning.

How has the international participation been? What have they brought to the festival, apart from their movies?

After one and a half years of communication (all for just Chitrakatha ’17) with many creative folks and their friends, and their friends, and their friends; around 20+ graphic storytellers, educators, performers, are coming to attend the festival along with alumni and other friends. They bought with them new experiences in old bottles – most of them have brought through their committed and responsible work, the message that, ‘that there are no shortcuts in life!’

Looking ahead, say by the 10th Chitrakatha, what will things look like for the festival? Growth or familiarity?

By the 10th edition of Chitrakatha, assuming the year of 2025, that is if it remains a biannual festival, there will hopefully be quite a few Chitrakatha-like festivals across the country with a better society to live in, where animation, comics, music, illustrations and such come together and become a part of our society. I mean, I will be 56 years of age by then and my happiness will lie in the fact that Donald Trump, Kim and other such megalomaniacs don’t blow off this world; and that Chitrakatha will continue to be festival of alternatives that continues to nurture the unsung, the obscure and the original original storytellers.

What’s the best way for a participant and a viewer to get the most out of their Chitrakatha experience?

The best way, as I have similarly mentioned earlier, is to be sensitive, sensible and enliven their curiosity through talking to each other and sharing their experiences while experiencing Chitrakatha, such are the expressions of this festival.

Speaking as the Festival Director, which is the best time of the festival for you? Before the fest, when you’re creating your palace of ideas? During the festival when everybody participates and partakes? Or after the festival, when you can see the outcome of your labours and sleep a peaceful sleep?

I would say that my feelings are equally distributed in time; the excitement before the festival – the whole joy of meeting the deadlines, getting into sleepless nights, dangling between hopes and frustration, a little bit in trance while the festival is going on and a little bit of disbelief (since mine is still a beggars banquet). At the end of it all, there is still the sweet hangover of the festival and following that is a whole non-festival year (2018) of void that hangs in my head.

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