Benita Chacko

Dairy Board celebrates Dr Verghese Kurien's 100th birthday with a stop-motion film

The five-minute-long film depicts the journey of the 'Milkman of India' over five decades.

Celebrating the 100th birthday of Dr Verghese Kurien, the architect of India’s ‘White Revolution’, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) has created an ad film paying tribute to his contributions. Created by Vadodara-based Dream Vox Studios, ‘Safarnama’ is made using the stop-motion animation technique, where captured images are edited together to give the impression of movement.

The five-minute-long film depicts Dr Kurien’s journey over five decades that transformed the country from an importer of dairy products to the world's largest milk producer. Apart from ‘Operation Flood’, the film also provides a brief history of all the institutes that Dr Kurien built, like Amul, Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA), Anandalaya school, Mother Dairy, and the many cooperatives he set up.

Stop-motion technique is a time-consuming process that involves creating the characters and the sets from scratch, and then taking photographs to edit them together.

Karan Bhatt
Karan Bhatt

Karan Bhatt, partner at Dream Vox Studios, says the team chose this three-dimensional technique over the regular two-dimensional animation as it resonates more with the idea they are portraying. “It is a more authentic process. It makes more sense in treating everything from a bottoms-up approach when you're making something for such a big personality.”

After the NDDB roped in Dream Vox for the film, the latter’s team had to do intense research on Dr Kurien’s life. They visited the institutes and the plants, and captured images to use them as references to build the set. They went through books on Dr Kurien’s life to gather crucial moments from his life, and even watched the film 'Manthan' to gather more inputs.

For the aspects of the film that they had no reference point, they visualised it themselves. For example, the scene where (the late former Prime Minister) Lal Bahadur Shastri visits Dr Kurien and the making of 'Manthan'.

A behind the scene visual from the 'Manthan' scene in the film
A behind the scene visual from the 'Manthan' scene in the film

“We needed to summarise 50 years in just five minutes. So, we had to make sure that the most important events were covered,” says Bhatt, who was also the director of the film.

After writing the script and creating a storyboard, they had to create the miniature characters and build the sets from scratch. The characters, around eight to nine inches in size, were made of silicone as they are easily mouldable. It was cast in moulds- heads and bodies made separately. The body was made of wires covered in cotton and bandages, to provide thickness, with the final silicone covering. Finally they were dressed in the clothes, specially designed for them. The sets were made around four to eight feet high and the props were also need to be created in proportion to these measurements. They are made of cardboard and foam sheets and then painted.

Dressing up the characters for the act
Dressing up the characters for the act

The shooting involved taking pictures of the lifeless objects. They used rigs to prop them up and several shots were taken to depict a motion. While a live action film is shot at around 24 frames per second, this one had six to eight frames per second. That is, every second has six to eight frames. So the five-minute film involved taking at least 3000 pictures and took 10 days to shoot.

“Since we are using these models and it is a stop-action film we cannot keep it 24 frames per second. Otherwise it will look like a fluid moment. In stop-action there has to be a stop at every interval so that it gives that effect. If I have to show a hand movement, I need to move it in three steps. So once I take three pictures, it looks like a motion. So we shot this around six to 10 frames per second,” adds Bhatt.

The pictures were compiled after editing out the rigs and replacing Chroma sets with backgrounds. For example, the church scene is shot against a blue screen and, during editing, the screen is replaced with an image of the blue sky.

Behind the scenes of the Lal Bahudar Shastri visit in the film
Behind the scenes of the Lal Bahudar Shastri visit in the film

The story is narrated through a song. The lyrics, written by poet Rakesh Tiwari, are brought to life through the music composed by Nikhil, Pranav and Shailesh and through the voice of Tajinder Singh, an Indian Idol finalist. When Manthan's shooting is shown, the film takes a small detour down memory lane through its iconic music.

The narration is further aided by captions that are written in the background of milk.

Altogether a team of around 30 people have worked on this film, from five major departments- prop management, set design department, character design department, costume team and the direction team. Of this around 10 to 12 people were involved only in making the sets and props. The entire process, from scripting to the final film, took around two months to complete and it took 20 days just to make the sets and the props.

Dream Vox Studios was founded by Bhatt and Rajeet Shah in September 2017. It employs eight to 12 people and its major clients are The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara Police, Ahmedabad Police, Gandhinagar Police, Tata Trusts, Deepak Foundation and IRMA. In fact Dr Kurien's tribute is their second stop-motion film. Before this, they made one for the University, at a much smaller scale.