Typography

It’s the New Year with new hopes and we encountered something very unique and real with Indian artist Vivek Ram who has a new title “Senapati”! Surprised? No it’s true, Vivek is a renowned Indian CG, Animation and VFX artist who has recently started his new venture “Vaanarsena Studios” and “Senapati” is his new designation.

Vivek’s career span of 20 years as CG and VFX Artist credits him many well appreciated CG movies, games and DVD projects. He is responsible for building high quality character and environment models as modeling technical director for international feature films like Superman Returns, The Golden Compass, Fast and the Furious - Tokyo Drift, Night at the Museum, Happy Feet, Evan Almighty, Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Incredible Hulk, The Mummy 3 and Land of the Lost.  He has also worked as a final layout lead on "penguins of Madagascar"

At 16, when boys of his age loved playing sports and video games, Vivek Ram was busy understanding animation software and working on computer graphics as a hobby. By 19, he turned his hobby into a profession as a freelance artist by doing full assets for production and games. Soon he started working with Rhythm and Hues Studios as a Senior Digital Artist for a few years before moving on to the DreamWorks Dedicated Unit where he wore multiple hats in his 5 year tenure, as a Modeling Lead, Character effects artist, Layout lead and an Animator. He has also worked as the CG supervisor and VFX Supervisor at Assemblage Entertainment for couple of Years.

Famous for his digital sculptures and illustrations, Vivek has also conducted multiple seminars on vfx, animation and gaming across the country and at a variety of Indian animation festivals.

some of his inspired artworks from Indian mythology

Though he works with all sort of modern tools of technologies, his personal work always depicted his love for ancient Indian art and culture, so is his new venture “Vaanarsena Studios”. 

We are curious to know about his new venture which is going to connect audience to Ancient Indian Stories on YouTube. Let’s read what he has to say about his aspiring venture.

Hi Vivek, greetings and congratulations on your new venture “Vaanarsena Studios”. Tell us what it is all about?

Thank you for getting in touch.

As a child I have always loved our ancient stories. I have grown up listening to these fascinating tales from my elders and in time I started deep diving into the cultural and historical significance of them and I just felt in love with it the more I read. The other thing that I have grown up watching and loving is Animation films. Disney has always been a huge influence in my professional life.

 “Vaanarsena studios” is my humble attempt at bringing these two things that I love together. I wanted a platform where I could tell these stories in a way that I see them, still very relevant in our times, and in a medium that is quite literally art in motion.

During my years of research in the myths, I fell in love with the Ramayana. A lot of my artwork has focused on the characters and episodes in this epic. The way I see my startup is that we are on a mission of art and storytelling, rather than being an entity that has a very structured and clear business model. An army of sorts. So when it came time to give my startup a name, Vaanarsena felt just right.

Is “Vaanarsena Studios” a bootstrap startup?

Yes Vaanarsena is a bootstrap startup. Most of the work currently is done just by me. I have just started hiring a team based on my requirements and projections for how this is going to grow.

You were already working as successful VFX Supervisor and you also worked with many big brands, what motivated or inspired you to go ahead with your own venture?

Mythology is ingrained in our culture. As an Indian, you've always heard atleast one of these stories in passing. For me, my eyes light up every time I talk about it or get into a discussion about it.

That being said, it was very disheartening to see that we've rarely been able to tap into its full potential. Most of the animation or live action versions of mythology done in India have always been targeted at preschoolers and the quality is far from anything we've been able to boast about internationally. We've seen very little of mythology that targets a grown up audience, and therefore, more and more of us are forgetting these stories or atleast forgetting how they were actually written centuries ago.

On the other hand, as a successful artist, I have known a lot of my colleagues doing some excellent international work, and wondering why we don’t see such work in India. And every time you ask that question, there is either a talk of low budgets or bad management or lack of creative direction. We are always more market focused because that is how most businesses works. A bunch of artists will just complain and go back to working on big budget Hollywood features and this cycle repeats.

Vaanarsena Studios was born out of this 'frustration' to an extent. There is some intense material in our ancient stories that if done right can very easily appeal to a worldwide audience. We've seen Greek, Norse and Egyptian mythology have a global reach, why not Indian?

Senapati sounds very interesting, how this happened? Why this title?

I feel like with more and more exposure to western cinema and media or world cinema in general, we've unknowingly gravitated towards what everyone else thinks is cool. The current political scenario also polarises our association where we'd rather not talk about our history and culture too much. We are more aware today of even Korean and Japanese cinema and culture than ours. Not that I’m saying that knowledge of world cinema is wrong, I for one have learnt so much because of that exposure, But losing our stories in the bargain is tragic. I was very surprised when a friend of mine asked me what "Vaanarsena" meant!

I wouldn’t call this patriotism, but more about love for the land I come from and its culture. I would like everything about my studio to resonate with Indians. I would love for this studio to reach a global audience where they are curious to know about us and our stories.

“Sena” means Army, and “Senapati” in most languages of India simply means the leader of that army.

There are Indians in rural areas that may not know what CEO or Sole Proprietor or Executive officer means, but whether its the north, south, east or west of this land, we all know what “Senapati” means. And for me that connection was important. I have also noticed that every time I mention the company name or my designation to an Indian, it brings a smile to the listeners face, and that is such an amazing connect!

You are bringing YouTube series: “Ancient Indian Stories”, what is the concept and what audience you are targeting?

Ancient Indian stories are exactly that- Our ancient Indian stories. Some call it mythology, some call it history, and people can debate all they want. But to me these are amazing stories. Stories that showcase strength and courage and valour, are open to innumerable interpretations and have deep philosophical undertones and give us a brief insight into how we got here centuries later.

The main idea here is to be able to introduce one aspect of ancient India, through either one of a character, group or location, every 2 weeks or so. My target audience is a young adult audience between 12-25 years of age, so the tone of the series is also more racy, fun and contemporary. 

You are planning to make 90 seconds short stories? Do you think it will interest audience?

The current attention span of my target audience is very short. With the amount of content out there, anything on a social/digital platform that is longer than 5 minutes can potentially lose your audience. I recently noticed that even TV shows are being broken into smaller segments when they get released online.

The format for my series is in the 90-120 second range. The idea here is to give my audience just enough information for them to be interested in the subject or the character, before I move on to the next one. Hopefully this will encourage the younger generation to want to dig deeper into our stories, or wait for us to tell them! As far as whether this will interest my audience for sure? only time will tell :)

A still from the first episode

You are adopting very different approach to present mythological stories, what is your thought process behind it?

Indian mythology is very open to interpretation. Also every region in the country has a variation to the same story. Even with an epic like Ramayana, there are over a 100 versions of the same story. What this really means is that these stories are very personal in nature. Every person that has passed this on has given you their take on it.

My approach is pretty much the same. I have spent the last 30 years or so reading or hearing these stories and now I’m presenting my version of these. In the coming weeks, you will notice that some of these stories have a twist that hasn’t been presented before.

On the technical and creative side the films draw a lot of inspiration from both classical Disney and Japanese anime. The tone is also targeted more towards a young adult audience with racy dynamic visuals and a more humorous casual tone to the script. I want the audience to feel like it’s a story being shared by a friend.

What style you have adopted to make the stories?

As of the current plan, all of "Ancient Indian Stories" will be done in classical hand drawn 2d animation. Classical animation is all but dead in our country and the number of studios still pursuing it is in single digits. Even the talent has to be trained from the ground up!

I come from a hardcore 3d animation background, so when I first tried my hands at this, I instantly fell in love with it. The plan is to showcase what the possibilities of the medium are and hopefully revive it as a commercially viable medium of storytelling. Every film will have a slight shift in visual styling that best suits the narrative.

What kind of services your studio is planning to offer in future?

As a studio our main focus will be on content creation mostly around Indian mythology. We will also be providing 2d animation services or collaborating where possible, if interesting stuff comes along.

At the risk of sounding like a bad business person, we hope to steer clear of the outsource model (fingers crossed) as I have spent most of my career doing that and that was not what Vaanarsena Studios was setup for.

Since long Indian mythology has remained favorite subject for Indian animation content, how yours is going to be different?

Yes it’s been a favorite subject, but we've barely scratched the surface in terms of how far this subject can go. Since most products have had a business leash to it, the industry has always played it safe and preschool-friendly with its execution.

Just with the first video and the logo animation that we released, most of the responses from our audience have been that they haven’t seen this kind of a visual take or narrative format on the myths before.

Having your own startup brings lot of challenges? What is your strategy for success?

Hahaha. I don’t have much of a strategy here. To be very candid, I want to produce some quality animation content, and tell some great stories, and if I can keep doing it for as long as I physically can, that’s a win in my books. I understand why we haven’t been able to do this so far in India because of how the business is, and that’s probably what makes me unique in the space. I’m an artist and storyteller first and that’s where my priorities are.

That being said, I believe there is a need for this kind of content, and so far the response has been great from the audience. The business plan is slowly evolving, I am in the process of hiring/training fresh talent and I'll probably have a better answer for you in a few months!

Thanks a lot for sharing your views with us. We wish you all the very best for success of Vaanarsena studios, we hope to see some great Indian content coming soon.

Checkout the first episode of ancient Indian stories:

Check out the youtube channel :

http://www.youtube.com/vaanarsenastudios

Get more details on website

https://www.vaanarsenastudios.com

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