When we think of animation – irrespective of whether it is 2D or 3D – the first name that comes to mind is Disney, and not without reason.
Walt Disney Animation Studios, popularly referred to simply as ‘Disney’, has been in existence for nearly a century and has established itself as a pioneer in the world of animation.
Many of the techniques, concepts and principles used in making animation films today were made known to the mainstream by their successful use by Disney in their films.
In 1956, the Films Division of India invited an animator from Disney to help establish our country’s first animation studio and train animators to work on native productions.
As a result, the Films Division’s Cartoon Unit was born and the first animated production, The Banyan Deer, was completed in 1957 by the core team trained by Disney’s animator. It took a while for animation to take off, however.
The breakthrough came in 1974, with a traditionally animated short film that was produced by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (then known as the Centre for Education Technology). That landmark film was Ek, Anek Aur Ekta.
Also known as Ek Chidiya, Anek Chidiya, the film was created as an educational initiative by NCERT along the theme of ‘Unity in Diversity’ and aims to teach the value of teamwork to children.
In the aftermath of the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 and the subsequent influx of refugees from East Bengal (now Bangladesh), and the political unrest during those years, the country was in a great state of turmoil.
As an initiative to educate children about the need for unity and the positive nature of diversity in a population, Ek, Anek Aur Ekta came to light.
The title of the film means ‘One, Many and Unity’.
It was directed by Vijaya Mulay, with the design and animation in the hands of Bhimsain Khurana and the two assisted by S.M. Hasan, Mahesh Taavre and Girish Rao.
The music was by Vasant Desai, and the theme song ‘Ek Chidiya, Anek Chidiya’ was sung by popular singer Sadhana Sargam.
The film begins with a young boy trying to pluck mangoes, while his sister sings about hopes.
The boy, abandoning the mangoes, asks his sister what she means by ‘many’, and the sister responds by explaining the concept of unity through a narration of a short story about a group of sparrows who united in order to escape from a bird catcher and then formed an alliance with a group of mice to free themselves from the hunter’s net that their legs were still entangled in.
As the boy’s sister shares the story, other children who were playing in the park come by to listen to the tale.
After hearing the boy’s sister’s story, the children discuss more examples of one and many: moon and sun (one) against stars in the sky (many), flowers in a garden (many) and flowers that make up a mala or garland (one).
The moral of the story is that by working together with people from different walks of life, one can be stronger and do more in their lives.
The film sends a message to all Indians, that by being united despite cultural differences, we will be indivisible.
This seven-minute traditional (hand-drawn) 2D animation film features a very sparse and minimalistic look and feel. The characters are of simple design with flat colouring.
Characters are designed to be white, while the flowers, rodents and birds are in varying shades of red and yellow.
The designs are simple, outlines with a solid colour fill, and backgrounds are flat original images as far as the eye can see.
For some introductory sequences for the characters, the background is kept simple so that the attention of the viewers is drawn to the characters and their actions – be it human, bird or rodent.
The designs are quintessentially Indian – motifs and scene designs in the backgrounds draw inspiration from mythology.
The garden scene where the boy’s sisters is telling her story is reminiscent of depictions of Lord Krishna as a child, trying to steal curd from the matkas hanging overhead and going to his mother for advice.
The scenes with the birds and animals have a distinct visual flavour of classic cartoons from abroad, such as Tom and Jerry, Popeye the Sailor Man, or Mickey Mouse.
The overall presentation is neat and simple, and caught the attention of children and adults alike, all across India.
The theme song of the film remains a favourite from that generation as well as later ones Ek. Anek Aur Ekta was first broadcast on Doordarshan, and has won major awards including the National Film Award in the category of Best Educational Film.
It is today considered to be among the finest example of story-telling through animation in India, and is remembered by kids from those generations with much fondness.
Check out the Film below.