“Dekh Bhai Dekh” …worth a dekko!

Learning animation is not just about learning how to use the software. Art, literature, history, story-telling, film-making, music, acting… many different things go into it. You also need to watch a lot of good films to be able to create great films. That is what the students of NID, India’s premier animation school, do. But they don’t just stop at watching the inspiring films, they go one step ahead. They share them!

So here is a very nice effort by a bunch of NIDians – a blog where various contributors upload links to some amazing short films from across the world. Smit Shah and Rohit Iyer kick-started the film-recommendation network and were later joined by a lot of their peers. See the blog – DEKH BHAI DEKH – subscribe to it if you like and then come back and read this wacky interview with the duo that started it all!

AAA: How did you come upon the idea to create a blog like this? What was the ‘inspiration’ or thought behind it?

SMIT: All through my stay at NID, I came across a lot of good short films, animation and otherwise which we used to share amongst each others. But by November last year I realised there were a lot of people who had left NID, and we couldnt keep up with exchanging these films. So to share these inspirations I started a mailing list which had a lot of NIDians as well as non NIDians. Anyone who was interested could ask for an invitation to the mailing list, and a lot of people wanted the archives of those good films. The idea was simple, growing into a ‘one good animation a day in your inbox’. It was also to provide as much information about the film maker and the production houses. We try to look for more information about the film on the net and include it as well. It wasnt until mid jan that this mailing list was converted to a blog, and what an appropriate name Rohit came up with.

ROHIT: I’m sure Smit must have started it out of boredom… or to show off (he likes doing that!). He started sending everyone these mails and he added me to the list. Me… I’m like efficiency – as cool as it was to have the links in my inbox every day, I got kind of fed up of being linked to a trazillion different video sites. So I figured the best way to do this is to have a blog where we could embed the videos and group members could sign up and post new videos and an update would be sent to subscribers’ inbox through a feed. This really helps because you can look at the videos at a glance and not sift through lots of emails to find something.

So we also invited all the people in the mailing list to be part of the blog, so anyone can sign in and post stuff. There was a concern about what’s the point in having a blog like this when there are so many other such blogs/sites online already. So after some thought, we kind of figured that these are videos recommended by people we KNOW and not just random shorts. The idea behind posting on the blog is that we want to share what WE like and express our tastes and discoveries through this, as opposed to creating some sort of archive.

The name “Dekh Bhai Dekh” came about because when creating the blog, I had to give it a name and I preferred something in Hindi. Trivia: Dekh Bhai Dekh is the name of an old TV show from nineties starring Shekhar Suman, which used to air on Sony Entertainment Television!

AAA: Who started it?

SMIT: Like I said, the mailing list was open to people. Anyone could reply back to the entire community. But it needed a lot of pushing from me and Rohit. I guess it still does.

It was Smit! It was him! But seriously, Smit started it. He’s a starter, he is. And like he said, starting is just half the job, unless people keep posting and updating the site, it can go stale. So ideally, it should be a collaboration, but no one is pressurized to post.

AAA: How did it expand into a collaborative effort from many contributors?

SMIT: It was always a multi contributor collaborative effort. It was started with an idea of exchanging good inspirational stuff people make.

ROHIT: Ditto. I think when Smit started mailing it was just like a normal email; you know recommending something to a friend. Then he started forwarding the mail to more people so it kind of expanded in an organic way. And now it has evolved to it’s logical form.

AAA: How many contributors do you have as of now?

SMIT: There are 12 contributors as of now, and anyone is free to ask for an invite to contribute.

ROHIT: Hey… I counted 27,391 last Friday!

AAA: Are they only from NID? Or do you have others from the animation community as well?

ROHIT: Yes. No.

AAA: Is it open for all?

ROHIT: Only if you can pass the official Dekh Bhai Dekh written exam and obstacle course. If you’re interested in joining please contact our HR department.

AAA: Very funny, Rohit! :) The idea behind Dekh Bhai Dekh! is really nice. How would you like to take it forward? Do you have any plans or would you prefer to keep it as a mini discussion group for sharing great films?

SMIT: Right now I suppose the blog remains as a discussion forum, but we are trying hard to convince more and more people to contribute. With such a big library of films, I’m sure people new to animation or animation fans would get an idea of how vast the discipline is. There are personal blogs also that some of the contributors like me and Rohit publish about their own projects they are working on.

ROHIT: I think the basic idea of a tight-knit group is working very well right now. I’m all for it getting bigger, but then it would necessitate a tighter system. Right now it’s a little casual and that’s what creates the kind of atmosphere we like. It’s not “All the animation and film that’s out there”, it’s more about what we like and hence, what we think others will like. It’s all about sharing and creating a sense of community amongst Indian artists and students. Well at least we hope it’ll become that.

So we take leave of the talented duo as they get back to their diploma films and wish them all the very best!

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