* A shorter version of this article was originally published in DNA Sunday Mag (pg. 10) on 14th August July 2011 - Download PDF of the original article in DNA*
Vaibhav Kumaresh is easily the most recognised face of Indian animation. At any animation festival or seminar, you will find him surrounded by throngs of starry-eyed, aspiring animators hounding him with questions. When not animatedly narrating his ideas, you will find him scribbling rapid sketches on sheets of paper, or tracing invisible characters in thin air.
Known for his distinct style of illustration, Vaibhav’s repertoire covers the complete spectrum of animation techniques – hand drawn, clay animation and digital 3D. Yet he sincerely believes that ‘the story’ always comes first. “If the storytelling is good, it automatically puts the medium into the limelight. India is a land of storytellers but over the last two decades we have forgotten to tell our own stories, at least in animation”, he says. “Most Indian animation studios are engaged in executing outsourced animation projects for foreign clients. We haven’t made enough effort to cater to Indian audiences and the little that we have done has been way below par. As a result, we have failed to build a strong Indian ecosystem in the field of animation films.”
Vaibhav eats, breathes and lives animation. “When you are madly in love with your work, you never get bored of it. Nor do you care much for a break”, says the animator who began his career in 1998 with Famous Studio and went on to create some of the most memorable animation in Indian television – Simpoo, Poga, and the Amaron Battery ad series.
He reveals, “There was this secret journal that I used to maintain during my school years, with sketches, doodles and detailed drawings capturing every interesting thing I saw. Teachers, classmates and popular TV characters found their way into this journal.” These drawings later paved the way for Vaibhav’s most popular creation – Simpoo Singh Sodhi, the lovable Sardar teacher of Channel [V]. Most people don’t know that Vaibhav often lends his voice to the characters that he creates. He is also equally happy playing teacher and mentor to innumerable young aspiring animators in schools across the country, including the National Institute of Design, his alma mater.
Ask Vaibhav any question and he has a story to tell. The birth of his studio in 2003, for instance. “After 5 fabulous years at Famous Studio, I was longing to work on a short animated children’s film that my friend was producing”, says Vaibhav. “It would have been wrong for me to work on the project while I was still employed by the studio. Eventually I reached a point where I had to choose between my job and the short film. I chose the latter. It was an overnight decision to set up Vaibhav Studio – a scary one but probably one of my happiest!” He need not have worried though. Within a week of launch, he was inundated with projects.
For seven years now, Vaibhav’s little studio has been going strong, unaffected by the dark spectre of recession that’s haunting the Indian animation industry, and have consistently produced remarkable animation for public awareness campaigns, ad films, promos for TV channels and sequences for feature films including Taare Zameen Par. Now he is all set to work on the most challenging project in his career, a self-funded 30 minute film. “It is high time film makers like myself set an example by producing animated features of the same quality of storytelling and production that we so successfully do in shorter formats.”
Amen to that!