Acclaimed animator Bhimsain Khurana died on Tuesday night at the age of 81 in Mumbai. He is survived by his wife Neelam and sons Himaanshu and Kireet.
Bhimsain, as he was known professionally, was trained by pioneering animator Ram Mohan in the 1960s. In 1970, Bhimsain made his first animated film, The Climb, which won the Silver Hugo Award at the Chicago International Film Festival. A comment on competitiveness, the short inspired the name of Bhimsain’s production company, Climb Media.
A series of films followed that embraced a range of styles and concerns, including Na, Ek-Do, Munni, Freedom is a Thin Line, Mehmaan, Kahani Har Zamne Ki and Business is People. The best-known and the best-loved among them is the National Film Award-winning Ek Anek Aur Ekta (1974), meant for children and the children within all of us.
Bhimsain was born in 1936 in Multan in undivided India. His father manufactured frames for paintings. The family fled Multan during the Partition and moved to Lucknow, where Bhimsain studied Fine Arts and Classical Music at Lucknow University.
He moved to Mumbai in 1961 to work at the Films Division’s Cartoon Film Unit as a background artist. According to a short documentary made by his company, Bhimsain would “do ads in the day and short films in the night”.
Alongside animated films and commercials, Bhimsain directed features too. He made his debut in 1976 with Gharonda, a tragedy about a young couple’s struggle to find a house in Mumbai. The self-funded Gharonda, starring Amol Palekar, Zarina Wahab and Shreeram Lagoo, remained unsold for a for a year, and was recognised as one of the most astute explorations of Mumbai’s housing crisis after its release.
Bhimsain’s next few films continued to reflect middle-class concerns. These include Dooriyan (1979), starring Sharmila Tagore and Uttam Kumar as a married couple whose constant bickering affects their young child.
Bhimsain also directed live action and animated shows for television in the 1980s and ’90s, such as the children’s comedy Choti Badi Baatein, Vartmaan, and the first Indian computer-generated animation series Lok Gatha (1992). Lok Gatha won for Bhimsain three National Film Awards – he had 13 more to his credit for his other films. His last project was the television movie Rajjobaji, about a young couple, in 2004.