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An animated yes

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A Hyderabad-based animation studio wants to stay true to originality.

Rajiv Chilakalapudi: Drawing up plans for original Indian animation.
Rajiv Chilakalapudi: Drawing up plans for original Indian animation.

Jyothi P. Iyer

In a world animated by Mickey and Minnie, Tom and Jerry, and Catdog predominantly western in character the "very Indian"

Hanuman

has held his own.

And close on the heels of this super successful animation movie came

Krishna: The Birth

, produced by Hyderabad-based Green Gold Animation studio, which was telecast by Cartoon Network in August this year. For the second part of this series on Krishna, "negotiations with Cartoon Network are at an advanced stage," says Rajiv Chilakalapudi, Founder-Director, Green Gold Animation Pvt Ltd.

The fantasy world has always fascinated Chilakalapudi, who says, "As a child, I was hugely attracted by cartoon characters and wondered how these inanimate objects could be animated. This curiosity, over a period of time, developed into a craze and here I am, roughing it out."

But not for funds, which invariably is one of the biggest issues faced by young entrepreneurs. "Money was not an issue at all for me. I had some savings. The rest came from the family and I started the company in 2001 with an initial investment of Rs 50 lakh," he says.

The capital size of his company may well appear to be small but he nurtures big dreams. "We want to be the No. 1 animation company in the world within the next ten years, on par with Disney," he announces. "Creatively, we consider ourselves No. 1 in India today. Most other Indian animation companies are into outsourced work but we are creating original content. We want worldwide recognition in terms of both quality and quantity."

And does he think it would be possible to achieve such big results? "Of course," he says, adding quickly that India is fast becoming an economic superpower and the Indian animation scene is really looking up.

The 32-year-old animator says he was proud to be one out of three Indians invited to speak at the Mipcom conference held in Cannes, France, from October 7 to 13. Mipcom Junior is a global organisation involved in marketing animation content for schoolchildren.

This electronics engineer from Osmania University went on to do his masters in Computer Science in the US. Explaining why he gave up the opportunity to pursue a career in the US, he says, "I preferred to come back home to start my own venture." But that decision also meant facing several "struggles" on home ground. The country's animation industry was still at a nascent stage. "Tapping manpower was the biggest problem. For one, there were hardly any professionals in this field. And even if we offered to train people, they were scared to experiment with a new field. And retaining those who got trained was another issue on hand," he recalls.

Initially the company was involved in a broad range of services. "We just picked up any contract that came our way, ranging from creating Web sites to small animation jobs and preparing designs for print media advertisements. We had to sustain ourselves."

In its third year of operations, Green Gold landed its first major project a contract with Doordarshan to produce

Bongo

, a serial featuring an alien character and involving a mix of 3D and live action. The cost was Rs 2-3 lakh per episode. Rudraksha Arts, Mumbai, produced the serial while Green Gold invested the animation cost, he says.

Chilakalapudi has now partnered with Samir Jain, a Hyderabad-based businessman, who has invested in the company. Green Gold has also tied up with Prime Movies International to form PMI Green Gold Animation Pvt Ltd.

Vikram Betal

, an 82-minute long animation film released in 2005 on Cartoon Network took the company nine months and 60 people to make.

Another project,

Chota Bheem

, is on its radar and which, he clarifies, is not about the Pandava prince but about a little boy who is very strong.

Asked why he chose Indian mythological subjects so often, he says that they are easy to market because of their familiarity among Indian viewers. But they are becoming increasingly popular outside India too, he adds.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 8, 2006)
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