Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Munna & Circuit!

After going thru all sorts of guilty feelings about not being able to find the space to sit and put down these random (and sometimes, not so random) thoughts.. I have reached the conclusion that my personal redemption lies in resuming this archaeological and anthropological investigation into ones artistic and personal journey. As such everybody indulges in it verbatim, but to carve it on the immense wall of introspective babble, art and myriad graffiti that is the blog world is an act requiring more than a touch of humility and love ( for oneself, and others-- now why don't I take that more seriously and spare them the verbiage above?)

More about the manifold experiences and adventures in the 'meanwhile' of my blog-absence, as usual, later..

For now, a cartoon of Munna & Circuit that graces the back cover of the screenplay of "Lage Raho Munnabhai!!" published and released this month..Should be available at most major bookstores.

We were very privileged to be a part of the production of this film by virtue of doing some of the effects and corrections thereby taking the load off the assigned post house..we had just come out of Eklavya then..seems like a very long time back now..(archaeology..)

This caricature of Sanjay Dutt & Arshad Warsi in the roles that have now become synonymous with them was presented to Sanjubaba on his birthday, I believe.. also it hangs proudly in the offices of VCF & Raju Hirani!!
Wish them all the best for many more such successes.. ALL IZZ WELL.. I suppose:)

(read about the book here: Scripted! Munna bhai on bookshelves.. alsohere, and here a video of the event, you can see the display..)

Monday, July 27, 2009

In Memoriam: Great masters: Habib Tanvir 1

This post is so overdue... I am ashamed that it couldn't have been done earlier.. and it is still incomplete so it will be in parts..

Last month was Guru Purnima (learn more here); when we acknowledge, respect and honour the contributions of our teachers in our life..spiritual or otherwise..( but then, shouldn't all learning be considered spiritual? maybe not... a lot of nonsense out there as well).

Guru= teacher-preceptor.. or in my opinion anybody who has made a difference in my journey by inspiring and teaching me to achieve greater heights than I would have otherwise.

So firstly with adoration and obeisance at the feet of my Guru, I proceed to remember some masters who recently passed on, who made a profound contribution to the fields they were associated with and to my life and journey in particular.

The first and foremost is a theatre Legend whom I had the privilege of a brief but lovely interaction and of all the masters who have influenced me so far, the only one I have actually met.

HABIB TANVIR (1st sept 1923-8th jun 2009) was no ordinary man. Acclaimed theatre director& playwright, poet, lyricist, actor, singer and teacher to many while running a professional troupe, Naya theatre for half a century!!
You can read about his life and work on the net.. There is the website habibtanvir.org ..one good article is this: Habib Tanvir: The making of a Legend by Javed Malik another here by Nilanjana Roy, The BS column: Habib Tanvir
A beautiful tribute ' A farewell to the bard of Bhopal ' by Sudhanva Deshpande who made two documentaries on him and Naya Theatre.
Another interesting item is an interview from 2004, "Art is always anti-establishment"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Talisman.. The Trailer!!

character study for Talisman
Have itching to put up something interesting for a while..but juggling too many things.. the studio is undergoing some rapid and cool developments.. you will hear about it soon!

concept for BigB's character in the Talisman promo

In the meantime some semi-recent stuff that was great fun to do. Some of you who caught Ekalvya on the big screen may have seen a trailer for a film called Talisman, to be directed by one of our fondest friends, Ram Madhvani (Happydent, Xbox360, Himani Pain Relief etc,etc) and produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra. This film was a fantasy-'sword and sorcery' epic, the sort not made in India since the magical 60s and based on 'Chandrakanta' a late 19th century novel which I think, was initially a serialised story appearing in periodicals.It was written by Babu Devakinandan Khatri and borrows many concepts from the then widely popular Dastan traditions.

Character concept
We worked only on visualising and designing the preview trailer which was to announce the film. Initially we were to also execute this special effects heavy piece as well as create concept art for the entire film, but it was not possible for us to get involved for ten thousand reasons.. the most important of which was that we just couldnt have handled it logistically .Also this was a moment of truth period, where we realised we wanted to return our focus to animation.

The following are the boards we did for the piece. It helped to set the tone for the piece and the design for Amitabh (yes, him again) Bachchan's character.All of this was done practically overnight and was enormously satisfying to put together. Quite a rush!

...the storyboard panels
Anyway, the released trailer is on youtube.. here it is. Some details are different in it as you will see. My personal opinions aside, in the time at hand, it got done and well enough to be put on the screen! so kudos to Ram's team for sheer courage in the face of odds!! Thats how movies get made in India!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Animagic is 12!!! Part 2: Change.. in instalments

My gratefull thanks to all who have contributed to the journey so far or been part of it in any way!! It has all been a wonderful and organic process and I wouldn't change it for a thing!!

Speaking of change, the Animagic website is undergoing a rehaul.. and it's got a new look!!! Its going to have a lot more masala in it. Lots of stuff there already.. lots more cleaning going on..
 Most importantly the New Raju & I site is up!! Many more preproduction drawings, character sketches and backgrounds....
there's a guestbook up too, so please do write something when you visit.. and please do go back for more..

'Atul's Village' Background by Shailaja Jain

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Animagic is 12!!! Part 1: Going to the Dogs!!!

The first dozen this 1st of May!! Well, it's been a loooong journey but the party is just pickin up big time!!! 

Seriously though, it is thanks to this studio that I am whatever it is I am today.. It is my life, my temple, my worship, my university, my playground, my sasural and my maika!! and with Shambho and Dumroo, it has taken my life to the dogs!!!  Shambho completed one year with us on the 1st as well.. he came on the birthday last year... he was meant to be here.. 
And little Dumroo landed up at our doorstep on the 1st of January... so he completed 4 months with us too!! Triple celebration!!! 
These fellas are such fun that sometimes we feel that we should have a blog just to record them..especially Shambho's pics come out so great.. He is the most handsome member of our team!!! and has converted many dog-avoiders to full time doggy friends!


(in hindi its the name of a little drum played by The Great God Shiva when dancing..) 
he had a peculiar timing in his movement, as he went about chasing his own tail..

The very regal Shambho 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Summertime at Prithvi.... and Animagic !!

   Guess who! on the poster and ads for the 'Summertime at Prithvi' activities!!

       For those who are not aware, Prithvi Theatre is one of the most respected institutions for theatre in the country. Named after the legendary Prithviraj Kapoor ( one of my favourite actors.. amazing as one of my favourite characters in one of my favourite films of all time: Emperor Akbar in Mughal-e-Azam) who ran a theatre company by the same name from the 40s to the 60s. It was brought back to life by the late Jennifer Kendall and now driven by Sanjana Kapoor, has come to symbolise a theatre movement that is vibrant and alive in Mumbai. It organises a festival every year that is a "must attend" for theatre lovers.
   They also have workshops and plays and activities for children in the summer holidays.. and we illustrated a couple of posters for that. Well they were used last year, and this year too, they have made an appearance with some rearranging by our friends at Ka Designs ( for whom we did the posters. Very good work) The funniest part is this year's campaign is practically an Animagic visiting card!!!
    HOW? Like this.. among the  kids enjoying the  puppet show, I had drawn a lot of friends and teammates as kids (the original poster below)..obviously including Sumant, Gayatri & yours truly(right to left).. Now you know! 

The Animagic trio all over the city!!  ;) 
Quite in time for our 12th birthday ( 1st May) !! cheers!!

The original poster 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Karadi Tales..Bakasura & Bhasmasura

 Just wrapped up 2 children's books for Karadi Tales.. should be out in a while..watch out for 'SUPER HATHMAN' & 'THE TALLEST TALE!!'

Meanwhile 2 books we did last year for them are very much on the shelves. Do check out 'BAKASURA & BHASMASURA' available as a set.. they are audiobooks so the books are accompanied by a CD which contains the stories narrated by Girish Karnad along with great music and songs composed by Three Brothers & a violin. The text is in the book.. so buy it!! 

The Karadi series is easily one of the best products in the Indian market for children. check out all their stuff, its ideal gift material for the young people you know. We've done 3 other books for them in the past, THE MONKEY KING (1998), THE BIRTH OF KRISHNA & KRISHNA'S CONQUESTS(2000), of which the monkey book won the NAPPA 2000 Award by the National Association of Parenting Publishers,USA. It also contains really fun songs!! We animated one of these, Bandar Bindaas Bandar which was India's first fully cel-animated music video.. sadly didn't air too much.. but was good fun nevertheless. :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Humble Gratitude.. Mr Shanbhag & Strand Bookstall

Mr. Shanbhag as I remember him, always smiling and radiating warmth.. "don't worry.. carry on.."
Mr. Shanbhag passed on this year in February. As the founder of Strand Bookstall, the fondest  haunt of ardent book lovers, he was practically the patron saint of book selling in Mumbai, having provided books to the brightest stars of the India like Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai and among others, ex president Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam who was also a personal friend. Probably the only bookseller to be awarded the Padmashri, he was gentle, kind and his legacy. Strand is a place where you can get the most competent assistance, freedom to chill... and yes, great discounts!!

    Back in the early '94, it was very rare to find books on animation.. you were lucky if you stumbled upon something.. I had  just started in animation and had set out to buy some.
    I was young, 15, and prior to my grand adventure in animation (I had no clue of the grandness of it then..), had hardly ever ventured out of Chembur. Everything was fascinating, I was obviously nervous at every step. Even more so, when it came to money and spending it.. I had no idea what anything cost! least of all good books.. new books.. You see I had only bought books at the local 'raddi wallah'.
    So here I was in Bombay (then) city proper with an aim to buy the Preston Blair books & whatever else I could find.. I got the PBs at one of the art stores opposite Sir J.J. School of Arts, and then wandered around the fountain area, a magical place for book lovers then, just crowded with booksellers of every kind of book possible..( yeah every kind)..I was lucky here too.. found an amazing book "BUGS BUNNY- Fifty years and only one grey hare'.. it cost me Rs150 (a steal when you think back.. but seemed like a terrible lot then).

   Well soon enough, I landed up at Strand Bookstall. This was my first real book store and it was every bit as I dreamt a bookstore would be.. just filled to the brim..with books & more..warmth.. and you could sit amidst the books.. on the floor I sat for a long time and browsed.. This was more than a blessing, I was on the right path!
   I found the Muybridge series here but to my dismay, they were very expensive! 750 bucks! I chose only  the 'animal movement' then... (figured that as far as human movements were concerned, one could just look around..!) But I didn't have that kind of dough. And I couldn't imagine being able to come back that far again..
 I asked, one of the kind gentlemen offered a solution, I gave an address and some advance and They actually delivered the book to me in the next couple of days.. I was ecstatic, privileged, respected, not treated like some silly kid.. felt validated and grown up!

That was the beginning of my relationship with Strand..

   Later, with the advent of the Internet I realised what a wealth of knowledge was available to aspiring artists in the form of amazing art books. You are only as good as the exposure you get, so the artists abroad were in an enviable position of being able to walk down to their local bookstore and have access to such treasures as one could only dream of.. 
Much begging around, looking for friends going abroad.. concerned over postal services, every book to be ordered being a sizable investment..
 Finally landed back at Strand.. give them a list, they would order the books for a 50% advance and you were sure you would get your books!!!!!

 I cant explain enough what this meant for us.. what it did to us... what it made us.. I can't sum up enough gratitude for this invaluable service, provided with such love, that I have always felt the recognition of calling home every time I meet people at Strand..

I finally met Mr. Shanbhag himself, after we had won many accolades for Raju & I, and took his blessings. In fact I could only then consider myself worthy of being in his presence as I felt I had finally justified myself and my hunger for knowledge  He and his wife were always very kind, very generous with their love.. and many a times, they actually kept the store open an extra 10 -15 mins even, as we got our billing etc done.. (we almost always reached the store a just before closing time!!).. and waited for us to finish.. It was all very overwhelming and special .. and from all accounts, they were this way with generations of readers..

THANKS TO STRAND FOR being so great!! and 'Shat shat pranaam' to Mr Shanbhag for having created such a marvellous institution!!

"I firmly believe, as a bookseller, that the moment you divert money into anything other than books, you are insulting Saraswati ( the Goddess of Learning & Knowledge)." T.N. Shanbhag.

May he look down on us with Love and always shower us with his compassion as he did in his life.

read more:
Ranjit Hoskote on Mr.Shanbhag: 'Honouring the bookman'
another tribute from Abodh at "Straying Around''

Thursday, April 2, 2009

In a lighter vein: Amitabh Bachchan

Now for something completely different...or is it?!!
Remembered these sketches (made long ago when we were working on Ekalvya) when writing the last post.
Dusted & cleaned them up.. was fun.

Btw that's Amitabh Bachchan, India's greatest Star of the last four decades. Both the sketches are based on my own experience being around him during the shoot of Ekalvya. I must admit, that I entertained the notion he wouldn't be larger than life at all..
But I am glad to say he was quite as you would imagine him to be.. overall at least, the details can be slightly different, the idiosyncrasies etc.. but he was very much The Big B.

AB as the title character, Ekalvya had a problem of failing eyesight.. but being an expert marksman that he is , he could get his target by sound alone.. His dialogue to Saif in the climax.." bas ek awaaz do... blah blah" was a source of much mirth. On a another occasion, I remember the director briefing him, " Imagine you are a dog!! Like a dog is aware at the slightest sound and flicks his  ears..." AB listened intently, probably wondering how he would flick his ears about.. he may have tried.

AB always had a posse of armed guards about him.. we had heard they were provided by one or the other of his influential friends.. (most likely Amar Singh? or Subroto Roy?) anyway.. they were of uniform character & personality ( at least as far as we could see).. however on more than one occasion they failed their job as some die hard crazy fan from the crowd gathered in the middle of the desert in Bikaner to see the shoot, would dive out and make for the Man! This would usually be a middle aged lady in a sari who was probably crazy over him since her childhood days.. and it was usually very funny and strange to see all these strapping guards completely taken by surprise by this woman who left her modesty by the crowd just to touch the star..
Then they would all jump her and overpower her, pin her down.. whatever, as they regained control of the situation with true machismo and pretended as if nothing happened at all. The dedicated fan would win her star's attention for that fleeting moment, maybe an autograph if lucky and all would be normal again. we were lucky she wasn't a terrorist.. With guards like these..

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Passion of the Student: A view of the Guru Shishya Parampara

I just love the passage below.., for me it symbolises the very essence of the learning process.. It is from a biography of K.L.Saigal, a prodigious singer/actor from the early years of Indian Cinema whose songs are cherished by a very devoted following.. more about him later. This book, K.L. Saigal– The Pilgrim of the Swara is lovingly written by Raghava Menon and this passage even though  talking about music, rings so true for all artistic pursuits.. 

"The fact that in traditional India the method of teaching prevalent was the Guru (teacher) Shishya (student) Parampara (tradition)did not mean that every student who joined the gurukul automatically acquired a guru. The actual product of the parampara, which is the unique creative person who stood in symbolic relationship to his time, occurred because of a unique relationship of a student with his guru. The system was no more responsible for this person than the apple that fell on Newton’s head was responsible for the 3rd Law of Motion.

            The parampara was only a convenience, an ideal environment for the acquisition of a guru. That was all. It was always the student who sought out a teacher, never the other way around. The triggering mechanism of this relationship was the student. Never the teacher. To say that the guru-shishya parampara is dying out in India is to say that it is no longer possible for the student to love the art more than his very life anymoreIt does not imply that there are no teachers who can become gurus to students who have the necessary psychological motivation.

            Most of the collateral features of such a relationship which are given so much importance in latter day analyses of the parampara, such as physical service to the guru, implicit obedience to him are small peripheral symptoms of this passion and not a cause or the substitute for it. Every generation has produced men and women capable of such passion right up to the present time. Few certainly, and they have always been few, but enough to put the wonder and mystery back into the simple art that is taught in school as Indian music.

            Unfortunately, this relationship cannot be observed from outside, for it cannot be understood apart from the art itself. For the greater part of the relationship lies outside time and space. The specifics of raga and tala or composition can be acquired easily and by the simplest instruction. The real thing which such a student acquires from his Guru occurs through a subtle osmosis, a non-material transmission which is formless and without parts. 

There is more than knowledge which passes between them. And this does not take the form of a teaching but manifests itself as a change of Being. This capacity to transform one's Being arises out of the interaction between the Guru and the shishya and is a kind of rebirth. The student extracts this out of the guru with the strength of his own passion."

K.L. Saigal – The Pilgrim of the Swara Raghava R. Menon

These are some of the charcoal sketches used in the Title sequence/Prologue for the film Ekalvya.. The prologue ( voice over narrative by Amitabh Bachchan) told the story of the tribal prince ( Ekalvya) who became immortal in myth as the ideal student.. He was so devoted to his Guru that despite being denied formal education, he learnt archery all by himself in the forest in front of a statue he made of his guru, the legendary Dronacharya. He was so devoted and focused he became a finer archer than all the royal princes personally taught by the great teacher.. An inspiring story from the Mahabharata.. and very significant, personally.