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Diversity behind the Hollywood camera: Indian talent opens up

By Sugandha Rawal
New Delhi, Dec 8 (IANS) Be it actors, directors or producers — people associated with showbiz are pitching for a diverse Hollywood, and things are changing when it comes to representation in front of the camera. But what about behind the camera?

Avneet Kaur, who has been associated with Walt Disney Animation Studios for the past 14 years, feels the topic of diversity is a relevant one.

“It is not just Hollywood. I would say, in throughout the world, the aspect of diversity and inclusion is very relevant and important,” Kaur told IANS over the phone.

“Diversity is all about different points of view. It is not so much about ethnicity, gender and colour, as much it is about different point of views. I think that is very valuable to have. It is now becoming even more recognised and supported.

“It is a very good thing not just in Hollywood but all around the world,” added Kaur, who lent her creative inputs to “Ralph Breaks the Internet” as a Simulation Technical Director.

According to UCLA’s 2018 report on diversity in Hollywood, the entertainment industry has been slow “to accept the related truth that its success in providing today’s (and tomorrow’s) audiences with what they crave also hinges on the presence of diverse talent behind the camera – in the director’s chair, in the writers’ room, and in executive suites”.

But things are changing.

Animation expert Norman Joseph, whose roots trace back to Mumbai, asserts that diversity is “basically about bringing more information on the table”.

“If we have people from the same background, you are only going to have one solution. But if you have people from different backgrounds you will approach a problem differently. It is about having different points of view.

“Diversity is increasing and that is a great thing not only for everyone in the company but also for the company itself,” said Joseph, who also worked on “Ralph Breaks the Internet” as a General Technical Director.

Kaur, who hails from India, pointed out how Disney embraces diversity — which in turn reflects in the characters.

“We have so much diversity and different point of views at Disney. That the stories and characters we create reaches to a variety of different kinds of people all across the world — and that is one of the goals of our movies. We want to reach wider audience to connect all kinds of people and I think that is where diversity truly helps.”

“Ralph Breaks the Internet” — the latest project from Disney — also puts spotlight on diversity.

The sequel of “Wreck-It Ralph” balances between the good and bad. Though the core theme revolves around the emotions of friendship, it doesn’t shy away from tackling important social issues like bullying and online trolling. The Walt Disney Animation Studios’ project released in India on November 23. It earned a Golden Globe nomination in Best Animated film category.

Joseph says there was no pressure while working on the sequel.

“For us, it is more important that the movie is good as it is and not depending on how the previous version or part one was. We create the best movie we can,” added Joseph, who has also worked on “Big Hero 6”, “Zootopia” and “Moana”.

Kaur, who works closely with the character asset team to lead the development and implementation of simulation solutions for a wide range of character styles and art directions, said bringing the world of Internet alive was an interesting experience.

“The hallmark of the movie was the world of the Internet because it is so beautifully imaginative and there is so much creative liberty… taking the same characters through this new world, through their new journey of friendship and take it to next level. It has been amazing,” said Kaur, who joined Disney Animation in 2004.

Kaur’s film credits include “Meet the Robinsons”, “Bolt”, “Tangled”, “Wreck-It Ralph”, “Frozen”, “Big Hero 6”, “Zootopia” and “Moana”.

At the moment, Kaur and Joseph are busy working on “Frozen 2”, and are enjoying every bit of it.

(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at sugandha.r@ians.in)

–IANS
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