By Ayman Anika
A peek into the creative mind of Amit Ashraf
Many try to stand out in a crowd by generating something exceptional. Only a few succeed and leave others spellbound by their artistry. The versatile writer, director, and producer Amit Ashraf is definitely one of the outstanding few. Having grown up in the US and spent the summer holidays in Bangladesh, he has been trying to promote diverse and innovative content to the Bangladeshi film industry for a while now.
Recently, his children’s comedy movie Kathal garnered massive accolades from the audience, for its subtle criticism of the ultra-wealthy society of Bangladesh. Amit Ashraf sat for a candid chat with MWB over the phone to talk about the stories that nurtured his creativity and upcoming ventures.
What kind of stories did you enjoy as a child?
As a child, I enjoyed fantasy movies a lot and the Indian fantasy film Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1969) written and directed by Satyajit Ray was one of my favorites. I used to watch both sci-fi and comedy movies during my early years.
But frankly, among all of these movies, the American stop-motion animated musical The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) deeply fascinated me and I watched it all the time. Now we have a stop motion studio named Ogopogo Studios where we produce children’s content and we are also planning to make Bengali animated series.
What made you decide on film as a medium for your stories?
I like story-telling in any form, for example comics and animation. But I find films to be more of an immersive type of story-telling. The film is a more integrated platform because it involves other types of art forms like art, sound, visuals, etc.
To make a film, I need to work with at least 10 to 15 artists having different backgrounds, and I think it is very cool. I believe that it is the most powerful form of story-telling.
It’s been a while since Quarks and Socks. Are there any more writing projects in the pipeline?
Frankly, I did not publish Quarks and Socks intentionally. I used to have an email correspondence with one of my friends as another character and it was sort of a writing exercise. But it somehow got published. So, it was kind of an “accidental publication” rather than intentional.
Right now, I am not writing anything but I think it would be a fun thing to do in the future. I have always wanted to work on a graphic novel and perhaps, I will start working on it soon.
Kali was the first Bangladeshi web series. Now that we have several OTT platforms, are you interested in returning to that format?
I believe that episodic narratives are one of the best forms of story-telling. Films end within a limited period and it is a one-time thing. But episodic narratives will keep you immersed for a longer period of time, unlike films. You can thoroughly develop the characters and story in episodic narratives, and you can work on it more extensively.
So, I think nowadays everyone wants to watch web series and I would like to make more web series soon.
Kathal was such a delightful project. What is the scope of children’s content in Bangladesh?
I want to work on more children’s content because I believe the formative years of a child are very important – in this period children learn lifelong lessons and this is how people are shaped. If children are imparted with moral lessons during their early years, they will stay with them throughout their entire lifetime, and they learn these lessons through animated films.
These contents should be made in the Bangla language like the Meena cartoon that we used to enjoy with much enthusiasm and delight. We are making an animated series for that very reason that is both comprehensible and educative.
What’s the status of Project Ommi?
Presently, we are in the preproduction phase of this science fiction as it is such a big project. We are not only building a movie but a whole future world. Initially, we were concerned about the props that we will be using in this film, so that was a big hurdle. But luckily, we have been able to overcome this issue and it looks good. Moreover, we are making concept art and trying to visualize the entire thing.