Interview with Dhimant Vyas – The making of TZP’s clay animation

As promised, we present the transcript of the chat we had with Dhimant Vyas about the making of the clay animation sequences in Taare Zameen Par. Hope you enjoyed the photographs we posted earlier. You can send your feedback and comments to Dhimant directly by sending him an email at

AAA – First of all, congratulations on being the first animator to use Clay animation in a Bollywood live-action feature film. How has the response been?
Dhimant – Yes, the response is overwhelming and very positive!! Thanks to Aamir for choosing the clay animation style. It is a craft with a human touch to it so it also tugs at the audience’s heartstrings. It works well with the main film because the story needed this kind of feel to it. The scenes depict Ishaan, the main protagonist’s imagination so the transitions had to be smooth scene and convey the dream-like quality. we used transitions like morphs, camera moves, elements appearing and disappearing, or you have one element dragging you to anther scene, so there is not cut till the end. And you do not realize when the three minutes pass by.

AAA – How did this project come about?
Dhimant – I had created the caricatures for the Lagaan DVD (Special Anniversary Edition Three Disc DVD box) I had shown Aamir some of my work which he had really appreciated. So when he decided to use animation for TZP, he approached me. Aamir initially wanted to use the classical animation style with a painterly quality. I suggested we try the clay animation technique. I showed him some samples. He liked it a lot and we decided to go ahead with clay animation.

AAA – Why clay animation?
Dhimant  – Aamir showed me the completed film and we discussed the use of animation. The sequences where we planned to use animation were mostly dream sequences, where the boy is lost in his own world of fantasy. There are a lot of transitions from one fantasy to the other. Aamir did not want to use human characters in the animation. He wanted elements from nature – fish, animals, birds, plants, flowers and so on. I created a few samples for him of which he liked the clay animation the best. There is a certain tactile quality to this technique. As children, all of us have played with plastecine or modelling clay and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. There is an organic feel to the medium which is not achievable through computer generated animation. Clay is something that everyone can relate to it easily.

AAA – But the animation doesn’t come across as ‘childish’ in the film as it is film about children.
Dhimant – No. Aamir made it very clear that though it is part of the protagonist child’s imagination, there must be no childishness to the animation. He wanted a beautiful and polished effect which we tried our best to deliver. The elements are bright and colourful, just the way a child’s world is but it flows smoothly into the story. It is not animation just for the sake of animating something. There is a purpose and that is to carry the story forward. It is a subtle way of giving the audience a glimpse into the child’s inner world and the animation captures that perfectly.

AAA – Aamir is known to be a hard task master. How has the experience of working with him been?
Dhimant  – Aamir’s thinking is crystal clear. He knows what he is looking for and conveys it exactly. It is up to us to realize his vision. He is a perfectionist but at the same time he respected my knowledge and experience with clay animation. He gave me full freedom, only giving his inputs from time to time but leaving the responsibility of the work squarely on my shoulders. Having the director’s trust in your ability is vital.

AAA – Who came up with the concept for the animated sequences?
Dhimant – I visualized the entire sequence. I first presented a couple of concepts to Aamir which we discussed and finalized before beginning the actual animation. We had a very narrow deadline of a month and a half to complete the entire animation from concept to modeling to execution and compositing. I showed Aamir the storyboards. We removed some elements, added a few others. It was an enjoyable process. I had 3 model makers working with me including Arvind Chudasama. The cinematography and lighting was done by Satya Prakash Rath who has worked on stop motion projects before so he has the experience to handle this kind of work.

AAA – There is some cel animation and CG animation as well in the movie?
Dhimant – Yes. Vaibhav Kumaresh’s Vaibhav studios handled the 2D animation while Tata Elxsi worked on the CG animation as well as the visual effects and compositing besides putting credits on the sequence and adding some effects in my clay animation sequence. The 3 teams were working simultaneously but in isolation from each other. Aamir and his production team were the contact points.

AAA – Tell us about the technique.
Dhimant – I use my own technique which I like to call embossed clay illustration. It is different from typical clay animation, as the clay figures don’t stand upright but are laid out flat on a smooth surface. It is technically easlier to animate in this manner as it requires less planning than when armatures are used. Light is used to give the almost 2D surface the look and feel of a three dimensional one. The illusion of depth comes from the play of light and shadows. But the light has to be planned carefully or else it will throw unnecessary shadows. This steals the volume. So the challenge is in creating a model that looks three dimensional under the camera. You have to cheat a lot. When you look at the model by itself, its shape looks odd but when looked at through the camera lens, it is perfect. The camera is set up to film the animation from the top. We used 2 cameras – a web cam to check the animation frame by frame and another Canon digital SLR for capturing the final hi-res stills.

AAA – This is a technique you have developed on your own?
Dhimant  – Yes. I haven’t seen anyone else use this technique. This is just the third time that I have attempted to use it. Before this I had tried a few clay illustrations for my own work and later to create “Happy Planet”.

AAA – What other challenges did you face during animation?
Dhimant – A very important thing while animating is to be able to maintain correct timing. Each element has a different speed and a unique style of motion. Sometimes, one shot has 20 to 25 items moving. For example, there was a scene with 2 groups of fish. One small mistake means everything needs to be redone. To add to that, there was a very tight deadline. But timing is something that you learn with experience. There were no cuts in the 3 minute sequence. Sometimes we used morphs, other times there were pans, but the flow is always continous. It was physically stressful but creatively most satisfying. I thoroughly enjoyed animating it.

AAA – Tell us about the title sequence.
Dhimant – The title where the name of the film Taare Zameen Par morphs from English to Hindi to Urdu, the movement of the octopus, fish and parrot was shot against a blue, red and then a green screen placed under the glass. The team at Tata Elxsi composited those shots.

AAA – Could you please share some clay animation tips and tricks with us?
Dhimant – Sure. For certain scenes, instead of modeling directly on the table, we made replacements beforehand and used them to speed up the actual animation process. But in other scenes, like in the scene where the peacock turns into a flower, we had to sculpt on the table. Everything was animated on one layer rather than multiple glass layers as is generally used for this technique. We left very little work for post-production. Only the bee’s and bird’s wings were created using Photoshop. The scene where the Hippos is entering the water also needed to be done differently.

AAA – What about the music and the soundtrack?
Dhimant – Luckily the music was superimposed later or else it might have been even more tedious to animate.

AAA – What else would you like to tell our readers?
Dhimant – Work very hard and have a passion for the work that you do – it could be anything. Enjoy your work, don’t just think about the money, it will follow if you do your best. Keep your eyes open and try to learn new things, experiment, try to be perfect and stick to your deadlines. Love your work and teach others! I think that is a lot of advice. Bahut ho gaya!!  :) Enjoy the movie on the big screen.

There are 44 comments

  1. joan Ashworth

    Hi Dhimant,
    Its really great to see your new work. It looks fabulous and colourful and I’m really keen to see how it works with the live-action. I’m really proud of you. You have always worked so hard and loved animation. I’m pleased to have helped you get the bug so long ago in NID. Do send me a link to see the movie or a DVD!
    Good luck with your future projects.
    Happy New Year.
    Joan Ashworth

  2. Dhimant Vyas

    Dear Joan
    So nice to see your comment!!
    You are my ‘Guru’, you taught me stop motion.
    If I am not wrong, it was the starting point of stop motion in India when you took stop motion workshop at NID, year 1988.
    About this clay animation, it is a part of a live feature film a small contribution to the film but Aamir (Director, actor, producer) has used it beautifully to show child’s imagination. It’s a great film with very good story, lot of emotions and message to it.
    Happy new year to you too,

  3. Arvind chudasama

    Hey Kaka.
    Its really great job.I enjoy a lot work with u
    as a model maker. i learn so much. and i never
    forget ‘Alu Bukhara’…ha..ha..ha….

  4. archita halder

    it’s really a good work. when i ve watched the movie i don’t understand how u made the animation so smooth. nd the models r superb!i had made a clay animation bt due to lack of any guide i can’t able to clar my conception. if u allow me i reveal my quarry.
    wish u Happy New Year!

  5. Ashvin Vyas

    Hi Dhimant (Munya)
    It is excellent work. we always see in past you have also never compromise in work.
    Thats why we always wishing you and your family very good wishes.
    Now we will see this movie on big screen recently.
    Happy new Year

    Ashvin & Our family

  6. gautam upadhyay

    Dear Dhimant Vyas
    I have been cooleague of Mr. Ashvin Vyas at Modasa.I have seen the movie TZP and today read the mail of Sh. Asvin Vyas.I am very much happy to know that the animation work in this film is yr contribution. Excellent work! All the spectators enjoy your work during the film. I must congratulate you & Amirkhan for this animation work of presenting the kids ideas of imagination on a screen.Congrats once again & best wishes! Gautam Upadhyay-Ahmedabad

  7. maheshvettiyar

    dear dhimant,
    it’s great….. work.
    ur realy a demon in claymation.
    do big thing for us.only u can do magic in claymation in this scale.i saw film 3 times
    great move with great visuals.i can not express the experience in wrods.we realy enjoyed working with u in TOONZ, thanx


  8. harshad from Dharavi :)

    hello KAKA..
    Thanks a lot for giving me chance to work with you in this project.TZP.I learnt a lot
    Working with you.. and other team. I have never worked before ‘Happy Planet’ in clay.
    But still you gave me a chance.. Thanks.

    I cant forget those days…sorry nights….and….Aloo Bukhara
    Rosted Sweet potato with namak mirchi ..Ghost animations…Tea and some Bukhara dishes at 3.00am…and the Laughing Session on 4.00 am. :)

  9. Tvisha

    Hey Kaka,

    The clay animation in TZP is fabulous… and apt to the kid’s imagination. I think it is the BEST one done in Bollywood till date.

  10. bhargav oza

    sirji,,,u done a great work…this wil inspire so many animators and people….really nice work….if i wil get a chance ,i like to work with u….sir.

  11. Rahi

    Hi,Dhimant Kaka,Wish you a very Happy new Year 2008.
    Great kaka.we really enjoyed TZP with clay really prefect imagination of that chracter who imagin his own world.its very inspiring for all of us.

    Rahi Hyderabad

  12. Brijesh

    Hi Kaka,

    The animation is mind blowing.. Got to know via nitin that the animation was done by you.

    Hoping to see more of ur work :)

  13. Prajakta

    Hey Kaka,

    I haven’t watched the movie yet, but would definitely go n watch it just to see your work :)

    The photographs look amazing.. dying to see it in the movie.

    Prajakta (remember Zurich project at TIS?)

  14. shailaja

    hi Dhimant,
    Fabulous job done. The animation is mind blowing. The transitions are so smooth and its 3 mins of sheer joy.
    i know how much hard work goes in clay modelling …so enjoyed it even more.
    all the best to you & family and happy new year.

  15. Amit

    WOW!!! Brilliant Work. I have not watched the movie yet due to the rush during the holiday season, I am dying to watch it now.

    (A real proud Indian to see such work in my own country, may be in my city only)

    I am impressed !!!

  16. smriti

    Thanks for displaying a wonderful work of art on the big screen.

    lot of learning.
    looking forward to more spectacular invention in animation.

  17. Pramod Nambiar

    woa man i liked Taarein Zameen Par a lot … !!!
    i loved your work in the movie Taarein Zaamein Par ka Special effects …as it creates a feeling of a whole new experience the audience is gonna o thru ..
    it was a special part of the movie in itself ..hope you take on more of such projects .. its so refreshing to see such artistic work in a bollywood movie just forced people to look at things differently in India itself ..
    definately a deserved break to the Indian audience from all those saas bahu serials ..

  18. kaushik chakraborty

    hi Dhimant,

    Congratulations!…so brilliant clay animation in Bollywood film.You showed us the path…learned a lot n i am impressed…



    Animation Film Design,
    National Institute of Design,

  19. Dr Neeraj Raj

    Dear Dhimant,

    It was quite an experience to have watched your amazing work on the big screen… Your beautiful work carries the distinct touch of a creative genius that we all know you as – full of colourful passion.

    I Look forward to many more creative innovations as much as I look forward to working with you again. Our heartiest congratulations to your family as well. You make us all so proud!

    Best Wishes and Warm Regards
    – Doc

  20. Nina Sabnani

    Hey Dhimant!!
    Wonderful wonderful imagery!! So proud of you. Congratulations and I am sure this is going to set a new trend and way of looking at animation and its language.. Very inspiring indeed. Whats next?

  21. Dinesh

    Dear Kaka,

    You are AWESOME. Every single works that you do are truly great. Another feather in your cap. After Aardman “Creature Comforts” yet another great work. My heartfelt thanks for all your teachings, inspirations and support when we worked together. Give us more…:)

  22. Rathan

    Dear Dhimant Kaka,

    It’s fantastic! It is simply superb! I am sure this is only the tip of the iceberg. I still keep looking at the the clay comic, which was done by you in the year 2003, and you had done it using the same technique used in TZP, where the clay figures don’t stand upright but are laid out flat on a smooth surface. If i am right it was the first clay comic in India, probably in the world using this technique. Kaka you are a genious :)


  23. Prashant sompura

    Jay Gurudev

    Yesterday my vithalkaka says me that tare zamin par clay making of mr. dhimant sompura.
    its proud of our cast to sompura’son are going in a high way.


    Prashant sompura
    and family.

  24. ScottHilaryChristopherSophie

    Hearty congratulations from Belfast. Delighted to see the fruits of your efforts and passion. Warm regards to you and the family.

    Bahut ho gaya.

  25. Natvar Chavda

    Dear Dhimant,

    You open the door at Bollywood for lots new animators with new concept.

    I know your 20+ hard work and your innovation style for animation.

    From our Five Faces…we all proud for you be in our team and as a friend too.

    Wish you best ever.

    Natvar Chavda
    New Zealand

  26. Tushar Patil

    Hi Kaka,
    This is all amazing about the Clay animation. I have read this interview and found that how effective the animation with clay used. I had seen your “Happy Planet” animation that is also a classic example of clay animation. I remembered your instructions for basic animation.

    Feel Glad to work with you.


  27. Umakanth S.Jaurkar

    Sir, how about the job oppurtunities for clay animation as there might be very few company’s running on clay animation.

    Sir, i want to learn & persue a job in clay animation industry.And finally would you mention some companys which will offer this courses.

    I am, Umakanth S.Jaurkar from Hyderabad.

  28. Umakanth S.Jaurkar

    Sir, how about the job oppurtunities for clay animation as there might be very few company’s running on clay animation.

    Sir, i want to learn & persue a job in clay animation industry.And finally would you mention some companys which will offer this courses.

    I am, Umakanth S.Jaurkar from Hyderabad.

    Thank you very much.

  29. Divyesh

    Hello Dhimant Bhai,

    I’ve seen the movie TZP, Very Very nice clay animation. you are an idol animator for next coming animators.

    Mr. Ghanshyam Bhai C. Sompura (Dhrangdhra) admires your work.

    Thanks for giving such nice clay animation.

    Thank you very much.

    Divyesh Acharya

  30. Umakanth

    Dear sir,

    i am working in Mobility Art Studio, Hyderabad.

    Are there any chance for me to get into your studio as Modellor. I do have many Sketches,Painting & Sculptur made by me

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