A still from The Glassworker
Pulling a rich, swirling sound out of the acoustic guitar, Karachi-based Usman was all of 21 when he played at TED Global in 2012 along with his hero, Preston Reed. The talk revolved around internet learning—how the massive world of internet has got everything to our fingertips, and how it helped him ace his style by watching his idols on YouTube. In 2011, a viral video of him turned heads and got his music out from the small Pakistani music landscape to making a worldwide mark. Touring with ONE Beat—a rigorous selection of 32 musicians from all over the world, performing at South by Southwest in Austin, and a twice-missed opportunity to perform alongside AR Rahman in India due to visa constraints are just some of Usman’s notable achievements. He is always trying to tell a story through his music and more recently through his animation skills…
But it wasn’t something that he always wanted to pursue. ‘With music, it was more about the opportunities that came along and I went with those…but animation and drawing are things I’ve been doing for a very long time. Drawing was something I was focussed on throughout my life, and animation is a stepping stone. However had it not been for music, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue animation. Because it was through music that a lot of attention was brought to my work and now I want to keep animating and drawing,’ he says. This week he brings to you, the first-ever hand drawn animated film to come out of Pakistan, The Glassworker.
For his ambitious project, Usman founded Mano Animation Studios, an amalgamation of animators, designers, and producers from Pakistan, Malaysia, the US, and the UK. ‘The whole book is in a comicbook form. We took scenes from the book itself and then later made the characters move…made the backgrounds. It’s a really extensive process.’ With the Kickstarter campaign proving a success, he will be releasing the film in four parts, the first prelude of which you can see below. Heavily influenced by Hayao Miyazaki’s work, The Glassworker touches upon themes like effects of conflict on children, innocence and coming of age. ‘I love the process of glass blowing, so I thought it would be an interesting subject to take up with animation. The whole film is in Urdu. I wanted to take a western setting and completely twist it and have the characters speak in Urdu and behave like people in Pakistan…I have created a European setting that the audience is more familiar with. The film talks about the effects of war in the backdrop of political unrest. A lot of it has been taken from my experiences of growing up in a country like Pakistan.’
Composing music alongside sketching storyboards for the film, The Glassworker is Usman’s only focus right now. ‘The entire film was a very meticulous process. As everything is drawn by hand, it took days and weeks to finish…but extremely proud and excited to share the prelude with the audience. It’s slightly crazy but you’ve got to be crazy to want to do something like this and thankfully we’re already rolling!’
Text Hansika Lohani Mehtani