“From the Indian perspective, to do animation for Hollywood is an opportunity for young people to find a career. There are very few chances for artists and this would open up a large area of employment”, this was the vision of the pioneer of Indian Animation Ram Mohan who’s knowledge and expertise was a stepping stone to the growth of Animation as an industry in India.
Though animation existed in early Indian films like Dadasaheb Phalke’s animated film Agkadyanchi Mouj (Matchsticks’ Fun) (1915), On a Moonlit Night (1934)( first Indian animated film with a soundtrack), true animation production flourished when the Cartoon Films Unit, as a part of Films Division was opened in 1956 and former Disney animator Clair H. Weeks provided training to young animators. Ram Mohan was one of the people who were trained under Weeks. Mohan worked as an animator with the Films division till the late 1960s.
Mohan started by doing character design and storyboards for This Our India, an animated film adapted from a book by Minoo Masani. He scripted, designed and animated many of Cartoon Film unit’s productions from 1960 to 1967, including ‘Homo Saps’ which won the National Award for Best Experimental Film, 1967, and ‘Chaos’ which won an award at the Leipzig Festival of Short Films in 1968. He participated in the 1967 world retrospective of Animation Cinema in Montreal.
In 1968 he left Films Division and joined Prasad Productions as chief of their animation division. In 1972, he established his own production company, Ram Mohan Biographics, which worked on commercials, and the animated feature Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama (1992), which he co-directed in collaboration with Yugo Sako from Japan.
During this, he also collaborated with the UNICEF and created popular animated series “Meena” which depicted the adventures of Meena, a South Asian girl and also received Communication Arts Guild Hall of Fame award for Life Time achievement.
Ram Mohan’s film credits include several animation sequences for mainstream filmmakers – an animated song for B.R. Chopra’s Pati Patni Aur Woh (1978), a title sequence for Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khilari, a sequence for Mrinal Sen’s Hindi film, Bhuvan Shome, and such films as Biwi O Biwi, Do aur Do Paanch and Kaamchor.
In 1997, Mohan partnered with UTV group and co-founded RM USL (now UTV Toons) till 2002. He was the chairman of Graphiti Multimedia from 2001 and later also established Graphiti School of Animation in 2006.
He received many awards and accolades like the National Film Award for Best Non-Feature Animation Film twice, You Said It (1972) and Fire Games (1983). He was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the 2006 Mumbai International Film Festival and was awarded the Padma Shri the fourth-highest civilian award given by Government of India in 2014.
“Animation makes learning more interesting because learning anything need not be boring. Even if you use simple devices it’s still worth it”, was the idea of modern animation in Ram Mohan’s mind. The visionary animator died on 11th October 2019 at the age of 88.
Though he is no more, his work and achievements are an inspiration for the Indian animators and his guidance will surely help them to take this industry to its full potential.