By Natalia Ningthoujam
New Delhi: Sanjay Patel’s animated short, “Sanjay’s Super Team”, which tells the story of an immigrant community and “a family of colour”, is up against movies like “Bear Story” and “World of Tomorrow” for the Best Animated Short Film at this year’s Oscars. The Indian-American Pixar artist and director says it feels special just to be in the company of “incredibly deserving” nominees.
The world is eagerly waiting to see who will walk away with the prestigious statuette at the 88th Academy Awards, to be held in Los Angeles on February 28. And Indians have a reason to cheer as Patel, who has roots in Gujarat, is pitted against “Bear Story”, directed by Gabriel Osorio, “World of Tomorrow”, helmed by Don Hertzfeldt, Richard Williams’s “Prologue” and “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos”, directed by Konstantin Bronzit.
“I was confident (of winning) until I saw the other nominees. I became even less confident after I met the nominees. They are so incredibly deserving. All the films are so unique and special. It feels special just to be in that company,” Patel told IANS over the phone from Los Angeles.
The US film production studio Disney-Pixar’s film shows a boy, modelled on Patel, who wants to watch superhero cartoons on television. It goes on to present the boy’s daydreams — bored with his father’s religious meditation — who imagines Hindu gods as superheroes.
“John Lasseter (chief creative officer, Disney-Pixar) was the one who gave me the confidence and permission (to make the film). I had a story about a little boy from India who didn’t have a father and it was more about him being absorbed in western comics and kind of ignoring the stories from his own culture. I told that story to John. He liked it. Then he asked me about how I grew up.
“I told him about my experience with my father. John straight away loved the idea. The same ideas got communicated, but it got richer and more universal. Initially, the concept was something that may be only a certain amount of people might have been able to relate to. But the idea of generational struggle between a young person and his parents is way more universal and emotional,” he said.
He feels proud that Pixar was “so supportive in letting me tell a story from an immigrant community… a story of family of colour and give me that opportunity to tell the truth”.
Born in Britain to Gujarati parents, Patel moved to the United States in the 1980s. The 41-year-old joined Pixar Animation Studios in 1996 as an animator on “A Bug’s Life”, and has animated on many of Pixar’s feature films, including “Ratatouille”, “Cars” and “Toy Story 3”.
Patel also storyboarded extensively for “Monster’s Inc.”, “The Incredibles” and “Toy Story 2”.
“My father has always been proud of me. The truth is I was always very embarrassed of him… of his Indianness. So, I am really proud that my father was patient for me to grow up, for me to come to appreciate who we really are,” said Patel.
In fact, his “big wish” is to visit India with his parents.
“My dream is to… I have never been to Gujarat with my parents. It’s a big wish of mine. I just want to go back and have them show me our roots,” said the first-time director, who also has a son named Arjun.