Nina Sabnani, an artist and storyteller, uses film, illustration and writing to tell her stories. She says that a story is what gives people their identity; the story of origin, the story of belief, the story of surviving are all stories that are full of human emotion and feelings. “A story is within a person, it is a form of energy that is passed from one person to another.”
Her recent film Hum Chitra Banate Hain (We make images) received the Rajat Kamal Award for the best animation film at the 64th National Awards for 2017 from the President of India. The film is an animated interpretation of an original story from the Bhil community in Madhya Pradesh. She explains that for this community, painting is like offering a prayer and the film reveals why.
She believes that each and every person on the planet is a storyteller. “People have the ability to talk and to enact certain actions that tell stories,” she says, adding that by doing so, people are simply sharing stories with others no matter what the context of the conversation is. But over the years, the form of storytelling has changed. “People went from narrating epics, to reciting poems, fables and so on but now along with cinema and theatre, interestingly, memes have also become a form of a story,” she says, adding that they could probably be the smallest type of a story. The common string between all these types of stories are that they connect with the people of the generation they belong to.
Sabnani says that even though words and visuals belong to different paradigms, they have the ability to work together beautifully. “What words cannot do, pictures can and what pictures cannot do words can. It all depends on the context of the story and what emotion the person wants to put forward.” She believes that the dance between the two is not only interesting but also exciting because of which when the two merge they create magic.
Talking about how animation and illustrations now play an important role even in books, she says, “People have started reading less than what they used to earlier, which is mainly because of time constraints and the changing lifestyles. This has made it necessary to add visuals in such a way that people understand what the text is all about,” she elaborates.
Sabnani says that the technique of illustration existed even centuries ago when people depicted text in a drawing format, and believes that we are simply re-purposing the ancient means. “We always find our way back to our roots,” she insists. She believes that our stories come from our culture. “The culture we are accustomed to plays an important role in how we conceive and understand a story,” she concludes.