be open to all ways of thinking & being


Location: Industrial Design Centre, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay

Name of job: Professor

What type of projects do you do?

I make animated films and illustrated books for children. My approach to filmmaking is ethnographic.  In my films I explore the potential of animation film to represent and interpret nonverbal (sensorial) texts produced by participants, from within their aesthetic space. I collaborate with communities that have their own visual language and stories that they want to tell. I bring in my strengths as a film maker and animator and they bring in their art and approach to life.

I use a similar approach while illustrating books for children and young adults. I find the dynamics between words and images very exciting and challenging.

Why did this sort work interest you, and how did you get started?

I love real life stories and I really like meeting people from all walks of life. I was always more interested in biographies than fiction. I find my work allows me that intensity of experience and engagement without guilt of being voyeuristic. For the period that I work together with a community, in that liminal space, we experience a sense of being equal and share our art, thoughts, and life stories.  It may have been a part of my life for a long time, although in terms of an informed method it may have started ten years ago.

What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging?

The most exciting part is the interaction and the co–creation of a story. This  is when we bring together all the shared knowledge, our observations from life and being in the same space. The most challenging part is putting it together in animation that retains all that experience, ensuring it is true to their art and speaks to everyone.

What do you like and not like about working in this industry?

Being an academic my interactions with mainstream animation is very limited. My work also does not fall into that space, since animation is generally accepted as humorous, entertaining and child-friendly.  My work in illustrated books has a lot of interaction with the publishing industry, which I find very challenging as well as satisfying.

My strongest assets/skills, areas of knowledge, personality traits and values are…

Areas of knowledge: Storytelling, animation, illustration, research; Personality traits: curious, people-friendly, enthusiastic, optimistic, have team spirit, committed.

Has IAWRT’s network of media women around the world helped or inspired you?

Yes. Through IAWRT I have met some of the most brave, dynamic and inspiring women from different parts of the world. Their work encourages mine and their spirit motivates mine.

What are your long-term goals?

My goal or dream is to create a network of communities with whom I have worked and bring them together. Then, through such interactions create a film with them, which will explore multiple visual voices and ways of telling.

What special advice do you have for young women seeking to qualify for this type of work?

Such type of work requires passion and a love for people. We also need to be open to all ways of thinking and being. Sometimes our worldviews may clash and that is possibly because of what different experiences each individual is exposed to and our different ways of living. One person’s reality is fiction to the other. For this kind of work one needs to suspend judgment and continue to work without compromising one’s own ethics or beliefs.

Do you have any special words of warning, or encouragement, because of your experience?

It is the most beautiful and heart-warming space to be in.  It teaches you a lot about life, about yourself and others. You make friends with people who would otherwise never cross your paths and from you would miss learning about the beauty of the world.

Links to some work online.  

Nina Sabnani You Tube

Personal website