In Conversation with Animation Maestro Balasubramanian Rajasekaran

The veritable Animation Maestro, Balasubramanian Rajasekaran known as Bala is the Art & Animation Director in the digital IP team at Qyuki Digital Media Pvt. Ltd, a new media company founded by Shekhar Kapur & A.R.Rahman. In his glorious career, Bala has worked on coveted several Animated Movies, Shorts & Ad Films.’s Zeenia Boatwala recently caught up with Bala on his journey in the Animation Industry.

Bala’s Work Gallery includes Art and Animation Director for LITTLE KRISHNA TV SERIES & also did the Character design for Kamsa [villain] & Directed the entire 3D Film Making process from Modeling to Final output. Little Krishna awards bunch includes: ATF Award 2009 – The Best Animation, Singapore. ASIFA 2009 – Professional category – National, India. GOLDEN CURSOR ANIMATION 2008 – Best Indian Original content, Best Animated TV Series, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Effects, India. FICCI 2008 – Best Animated T.V. Episode, Best Animated TV Series, Outstanding Indian Animation Content, India. FICCI 2007 – Best Indian Original content, Best animated TV Series, Best Visual Effects, India. ANIFEST 2007 – Viewers Choice Award, India. Also, Bala is the Lead Character Designer of Kamsa & Vasudev for the upcoming animated movie Krishna aur Kans slated to release on the 3rd August this year. Came up with the concept and story, Directed the entire film making process THE BAD EGG [Short Film] winner of DIGICON 6+2 – Outstanding Film Award-2006, Tokyo, Japan & WORLD GOLD MEDAL – 2007, New York Festival, New York, USA. 2D Animator for PABLO THE LITTLE RED FOX TV SERIES [For Millimage Productions] which won BAFTA 1998 – Best animated TV Series, UK Designed Characters & Directed 3D Preproduction & Animation for VENETA CUCINE KITCHENS [Ad Film] Winner of FICCI 2006 – Best Animated TV Commercial, India. Designed Characters & Directed, 3D Pre Production and Animation for ALL-OUT AD which won the Best Animated TV Commercial award, India at FICCI 2003 Bala is the winner of Cg Tantra Best Concept Art Award 2006-2007, India & also won the Cg Tantra Best Figurative Art Award 2006-2007, India’s Zeenia Boatwala recently caught up with Bala on his journey in the Animation Industry. Please tell us about yourself? I was born in Tanjore, Tamilnadu. My father was working as a deputy inspector of schools so where ever he got transferred I used to go with him & the districts we went were rich in culture and beautiful landscapes. I was always interested in observing nature, animals, birds, dance music, sculpting and art & all kinds of art forms attracted me. More than rigorous studies, My Childhood was all about observing and being part of nature. I loved playing basket ball, volley ball and liked swimming. So how was life as a student?  I’m a Bachelor of Fine Arts [BFA] from the Govt College of art and crafts – Kumbakonam. It was in my 12th Standard that I decided to opt for Art when I attended a Tanjore Painting summer camp [south zone culture centre at Tanjore].I met a guy named Muthuraman at the summer camp who was in his final year of DFA & after a long conversation with Muthuraman I instantly decided to take up BFA in 1991.It’s through Muthuraman that I applied to the Govt College of Art and Crafts – Kumbakonam and got a seat. I majored in Visual communication design [VCD] which prepares one for the advertising field as a commercial artist. I always wanted to express myself through painting, During BFA I felt I got a grip in my life and started focusing more on Art. I was fortunate to learn and be encouraged by three masters Manokaran, Late Sankaran and Rangarajan who were really good at painting. I passed out BFA as an outstanding student with few awards won, had a strong portfolio to go set out and get my first job. What was your first job as a professional? Well, in the early days of my career, I tried my hand in every field from advt to illustration and eventually landed a job at Nest Animation studios as a 2D artist, which was my first job as a professional. I’ve been a 2D Animator for the early five years of my career. I have traversed from back ground painting to layouts to character animation, character design and all other aspects of animation filmmaking which was pursued through Millitoon Animation studios a French subsidiary from Chennai producing 2D animated series. At Millitoon, I worked on ‘PABLO THE LITTLE RED FOX ‘ TV SERIES as a 2D animator which won BAFTA 1998 in the best animated TV Series, UK. Working on Little Krishna must have been a great experience.. Yes it was! I was responsible for the Direction of the entire 3D Animation Film Making Process of Little Krishna. It was good as well as a challenging experience as there were major hurdles at every level starting from Modeling to Final Output. I designed the villain Kansa of Little Krishna .It was a huge task for the entire Little Krishna team to deal with a wide range of characters & bringing out the personality of each character was tricky. Some of the episodes of this series had huge crowd scenes & effects like tornado, fire, dust, rain, flood and wind + water interaction with characters and trees. There were about 100 characters in a scene, they all had to act, react, run, camera had to move and practically we could not have more than 5 characters in a scene so we had to plan & split the scene into several individual scenes and animate the characters separately & again render them separately & finally I got to see the full scene after post production, it was a daunting experience. The best part of Little Krishna is visually it is very appealing. Could you put more light on your short film ‘The Bad Egg’? What aspect of ‘The Bad Egg’ you feel has made it to win at International Film Festivals I had a vital  role to play in terms of coming up with a storyline, design, story board, Layouts, painted back grounds, animated the 3D part and directed entire Art & Animation. The central idea of the film was about greed, the necessity to compete and grab, all in a modern fast paced life where we forget to be considerate and compassionate as humans. I showed this in a contrast with what already happens in nature and allowed that idea to play in the viewer’s mind. I think the message reached directly which  probably helped it become a success. Original Idea and Unique Visualization, I believe, has made this short film to win internationally.Each team member had a crucial role in this movie & the biggest challenge for the entire team working on’ The Bad Egg’ was to finish the short film within a very less period of time. What about your work on the “Higgly Town Heroes” series Higgly Town Heroes is a preschool TV series that encourages children involvement in the community and means to inspire every child to consider the importance of individuals who contribute to the world and make it better place. The show also teaches kids about jobs and may influence them about what they want to be when they grow up. I supervised 3D Staging & Animation under International directors, Denis Morello, George Evelyn and Claus Dzalakowski. They were very clear in what they wanted and successfully executed my part in the series. I must say, have learnt a lot from them. You’ve mastered all modules from Modeling to Animation, which is your favorite one & what’s your favorite medium of animation? For me, each process is crucial and leads to the other. For developing a successful & appealing 3D Animated Film, each area from Modeling to Final Output is of equal importance. I’m in love with 2D animation because 2D sees conversion of our ideas in to visuals, characters, back grounds, story boards which is the base of any animated movie whereas the latter is improvisation. For being a successful Animation Director, what amount of research has to be put in & what crucial aspects have to be studied while watching a 3D or a VFX movie? Animation filmmaking is all about telling story through visuals. To make a story telling visuals or to communicate story through visuals you have to be a strong story teller. Art empowers these stories to reach out to the hearts of the viewers.  What are your future plans & your dream project? I joined Animation industry in 1996.I’ve done many projects but, I always feel my best is yet to come. I’m very much interested to work on more short films and graphic novels that I plan to reveal over the next few years. I want to enlarge the canvas and work on animation & live action feature films. What inspired you to explore the world of art & animation?  I realized that ”Through art & Animation you can bring your imaginary world into life’’. After working on overseas Animated TV series and TVCs, I always had the urge to create my own ideas into films and other visual mediums. Please inform us about your style of working? The thumb rule is to gain in depth understanding of the project; I visualize the final output and then start working on it. Starting from the Concept, the Story, the Characters all complement each other and I try to get hold of these factors before jumping into work. Once the basic idea of the story is understood by me, I take it further with my team and later its improvised and innovated with software’s. Animation should be Believable! It should be concise and clear! Before animating any character, it’s very important to act and get into the shoes of the character you’re going to animate. Acting should support the story and pull viewers attention to the film. There shouldn’t be any problems in the basic principles of animation & jerks in animation which distract the audience. What are the things you do to keep yourself creative? I keep my mind open, observe and study from nature and come up with my own ideas. Also, I practice every day by making innovative storytelling visuals. Who or What are your sources of Inspiration? Nature is my biggest inspiration. I am a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki. I love his film making & story –telling style, it’s unique. It’s so appreciable to see the detail he applies to his characters. Hayao himself does the storyboarding for his concepts, which, I think is the best & unique part. Also, I’m always delighted to watch the incredible works of Pixar, DreamWorks & Blue sky. What’s the key to make a successful mark in the Animation Industry? Passion is the chief key & with passion, one should have a strong foundation in fine arts &.story telling. Mastering the basics is the first and foremost requirement of any field you opt for & to excel in animation industry extreme passion with strong foundation in story telling & fine arts will set the path for you. The problem lies in giving too much of importance to the tools and technology and ignoring the aesthetics. Anything else you would like to add? I profusely thank all companies, individuals, teachers, teams and friends to have supported me through my artistic years and I shall keep these experiences closer to my heart forever.