The state of Karnataka is preparing to see a slew of animated movies being produced by companies based in the IT city of Bengaluru. One such movie under production since five years is by Bhasinsoft Studio – Slick Rick.
The story is about a regular auto rickshaw driver who falls in love with a regular girl and has dreams of making money and keeping her happy. In order to make a quick buck, he joins a criminal gang planted in India to foil PISRO’s Man on Mars Mission. When his girlfriend finds out and informs his friends, Slick Rick has to choose between love and friends or the money.
The studio has strayed away from the traditional mythology and religion inspired story lines which would limit the market and also restrict IP expansion. “Over the past five years, we have slowly moved away from the service model to be an IP company. We now have 70+ apps and games in the market and our biggest IP is Slick Rick. IP Creation is much more creatively full filling and we are enjoying the ride,” asserts Bhasinsoft Studio CEO Ankur Bhasin.
The 90 minute long 3D animated film was originally planned to be done in 2D. “We wanted to do the movie in traditional 2D but were unable to find the right talent. We tried toon shaders with a 3D base but in the end the quality that struck a chord with us was in 3D,” shares Ankur. This apart, the colourful treatment given to the film is very contemporary.
Owing to the team being small, a lot of crossover in work has taken place. At times, a modeller is assisting on the lighting or an animator is working on the VFX, giving more flexibility. “We have a very flat hierarchal structure in the studio which helps the team to stay flexible and be close knit,” he says.
While initially four script writers were hired for the project, Ankur took the onus himself because of unsatisfactory results. “There has been a considerable time spent on developing the story and the script and I guess it stems from our belief that story telling is more important than the technology and it needs to be carefully nurtured,” he says.
The movie doesn’t have any dialogues but has four songs. “The movie isn’t silent but has gibberish and emotion sounds just like the ones in Mr. Bean The Animated Series and Minions from Despicable Me. I tried four script writers and I didn’t like any of their works so I was forced to write the story and script myself. I wasn’t confident of my dialogue writing skills so decided to keep it this way so that it would also force us to ensure that actions are fast and engaging since the complete focus shifts on that,” adds Ankur.
Another important area is character development, which according to Ankur, if done with strong characters allows you to get away with very less animation but yet a good looking frame. “We struggled in the beginning because I wanted to break away from the stereotype Indian character style. However it wasn’t easy and I had to force the team to unlearn a lot of things to start from scratch,” he reveals. Mid way through the movie, Ankur even decided to drop the storyboarding because he felt it was becoming too restrictive. Instead, the team played around with inanimate objects to try and get the right angles and even recorded people acting to get the acting right.
Out of the entire scene list, creating Slick Rick’s girlfriend was the toughest, as per Ankur. The team had to undergo multiple revisions to get the right blend of a cute and pretty look for her and even then director Vaaruni Bhasin had to step in to get it done.
The lead character of the film is based on Ankur himself! To break away from the common style of character stylisation, he volunteered to model for a sample. When everyone liked the end product, they stuck to it. A similar structure was followed for the other characters as well.
Ankur boasts of having received a few requests for distribution but nothing has been finalised. “Slick Rick is the first 3D animated movie out of Karnataka and we have approached the government to support us. We are hopeful of a positive outcome,” he states. It will be released in Kannada, Hindi and English in the second half of 2015. Apps are under development and the team is exploring merchandising activities as well.
An important part of storytelling for this near-silent movie is the sound designing, which is being done by Trimension Sound. “Music and sound design is a very important component of animated movies and even more so for us since we don’t have any dialogues and the actions backed by the right score and effects need to convey the emotions and carry the movie forward,” he highlights.
Being a musician, it was obvious that Ankur would write and compose the songs himself. The initial idea of the studio was to work for an animated movie and he personally wanted to create music for a film. When they didn’t get a chance for either, they decided to make one of their own. The studio is also working on its next two flicks as well.
The fact that several animated movies haven’t worked earlier in India doesn’t mean one gets discouraged. Ankur says that the right thing is to analyse what worked and what didn’t and try to do your best rectifying what is possible. “I guess a prerequisite for being an entrepreneur is to be risk loving. When I started working, I remember being told by my father, Sushil Bhasin, that ‘as a businessman, it is important to take decisions – some may be wrong and some will be right. Either way you will grow! The biggest problem is not with people taking wrong decisions but by people not taking decisions.’ I believe in my product and am excitedly looking for it to perform when it comes out!” he quips excitedly.
Even though Karnataka is the only state in the country with its own AVGC policy and one of the few places in the world where the government is actively supporting and pushing the industry, Ankur feels that there is an acute shortage of the right talent.