In April 2010 this year, the Indian animation fraternity received some surprising but welcome news. Vivek Ram, Ranjit (Tony) Singh and Vaibhav Kumaresh announced their collaborative venture – RamSinghKumaresh. For our knowledge-starved industry, it was indeed heartening to see experienced professionals taking the extra step towards animation education. Most ‘sessions’ and ‘masterclasses’ have, until now, been the domain of educational institutes and have therefore been limited to their own students, with the exception of the ones organised by The Animation Society of India, the autonomous and voluntary organisation that has been doing this for a decade now. It is no surprise then, that one of the brains behind TASI also happens to be the catalyst behind RamSinghKumaresh.
So here is the scoop, directly from the horses’ mouth, as I caught up with RamSinghKumaresh for an exclusive interview.
Q. Who is the mastermind behind this? Ram, Singh or Kumaresh?
RAM: That would be the Singh. We were all thinking about this over a long period on a very individual level, but it was Tonyji who first threw the idea in the air as to “Why not do this together and provide much more value than all of us are individually capable of?” And we unanimously voted for Awesome!
SINGH: This was something waiting to happen I guess. Kumaresh and me had been toying with the idea of doing something concrete and in a sustainable manner for quite some time, I just happened to jump start the process. I thought of roping in Ram, since I had a feeling about his mindset, we had a joint meeting and figured out that my hunch was right. The three of us share the same passion, commitment and philosophy towards animation education, so it really became a no-brainer. This may have been one person’s idea and that to us is unimportant, it is our collective commitment that’s got us excited.
KUMARESH: It was Tonyji who did the initial prodding! We jumped in with all the happiness! And once we were all in, we collectively structured this plan piece by piece and gave birth to RamSinghKumaresh: The Animation Masterclass!
Q. What was your aim behind this venture? What do you hope to achieve?
RAM: We all love what we do and we would ideally love to see our industry grow to its full potential. Unfortunately, what we have right now is an industry that tried to grow like the IT or BPO industry where numbers and manpower were thrown at every problem and the key concerns of art and film-making were never considered as the primary areas of importance.To compare, it would be like trying to make fine wine after observing the process of making aerated drinks! The resulting scenario is there for all to see. What the three of us are trying to do is to share whatever little we know and have learnt over the long years that we have spent in this field. We want to lead the audience’s thought process onto a road that makes them look at this industry as more of a satisfaction driven process than a numbers game.
SINGH: The aim is actually quite simple. The methodology and curriculum of animation training being imparted by various institutes has been defined by specific demands from the industry. Traditionally this industry has had no requirement for animation film makers, rather, its focus has rightly or wrongly been to provide software based skill sets to aspirants. There is a lot that can be taught to enable overall development of artists to encourage independent thinking. Our aim is to help bridge the gap between animation training and holistic education. We hope to bring about enough of a change in the way animators today perceive animation. It is not a 9 to 5 job. The purpose of learning animation has somehow become focused only on securing jobs. Once the demand for a particular skill set dries up – what next? An artist should be empowered enough so as to not be dependent on a fickle demand and supply situation. Good solid education is the only safeguard.
KUMARESH: I feel we are today in a highly illiterate animation industry. The aim is to share with the fraternity whatever little knowledge I think I possess. I hope to spread at least some amount of literacy! Twelve years after passing out of NID, my dear alma mater, I still consider myself immensely fortunate to have got that kind of an education environment. I feel equally miserable when I see a majority of our current animation students not getting anything even close to that! Therefore, if I can even pass on a bit of that energy to my students, I would be very happy!
Q. Will RSK always work as a team of 3? Do you have any plans to rope in other specialists?
RAM: So far it is the three of us. If we meet more like-minded individuals in the future who can add to what we are trying to achieve, we will always be more than willing to join hands. But that looks like a plan after a couple of anniversaries! :)
SINGH: As of now, this is a team of 3. Let us see how far we are able to succeed in this venture. The future is not something that anyone of us can or is interested in predicting. We are completely focused on the task at hand and that is to make RamSinghKumaresh a success as per our own high standards.
KUMARESH: Yes, we have considered those options. However, we don’t want to plan too far right now. Let us first see what the response to our inaugural session is.
Q. What does each one of you bring to RSK?
RAM: Together, we bring in a mutual love for the medium and a common set of ideals. Individually, I believe the three of us have the expertise that can enable us to cover a very wide area in the medium of animation.
SINGH: Our individual practical experience in animation as well as our collective knowledge across different mediums.
KUMARESH: I’ll bring my light box, Tonyji will bring the receipt books and Shriram will surely bring his tablet drivers! :) Sorry. I guess the three of us are mad in three different ways. That is what we plan to bring.
Q. What are your future plans?
RAM: None as yet. Based on the response to the first few sessions we’re going to wing it from there. Our format allows us a lot of flexibility so we would like to evolve based on the feedback that we garner therefore we haven’t planned too far.
SINGH: We have some interesting and radical ideas, since we know this is a very strong and potentially explosive property. But having said that, each of us is clear that we’re going to take small and measured steps. We’re in no rush here to build a conglomerate overnight.
KUMARESH: We’ll know after our first three sessions!!
Q. Who is your primary target for these masterclasses? Students/professionals/teachers/general public?
RAM: Our primary target would be individuals who are willing to learn or who believe we have something that they could gain from and also share with us. These could be students, professionals, teachers – anybody. I personally believe that we ourselves are still students in many ways, so we wouldn’t want to think of those attending as belonging to a certain section. All are welcome as long as they have some working knowledge of the medium.
SINGH: Anyone who is interested in understanding animation film making. Remember we are not going to train you, but through knowledge gained by practical experience we will give you the understanding of how to approach the subject. The aim is to encourage you to be able to take your ideas forward with the confidence that your basics are in place. We want to encourage independent thinking by empowering you with the requisite knowledge. There is a lot more to animation than just software based skill sets. We will expect people to have some exposure / interest in the creative arts so to that extent it is not going to be an introduction to animation. But again, software proficiency and expertise is not at all important for you to attend and experience these classes.
KUMARESH: Whoever wants to learn is most welcome. Our classes are going to be an exciting mixture of theory, live exercises, technicalities, fundamentals and of course, films!
Q. This announcement came as a surprise to most of us from the industry – you were very hush-hush about it. What are the responses you are getting from people?
RAM: This was quite a surprise for us too. A month ago, all three of us were probably on very different roads. This is one of those times where it is about the right people with the right idea at the right place. When the idea was proposed, we all felt this was the right thing to do. The responses so far have been great and people have been super supportive. Very rarely have we seen institutes, forums and studios all supporting the same thing and we have been fortunate with that kind of a response. It’s quite encouraging!
SINGH: No point in beating the drum without a concrete plan in place. In fact, the speed of us coming together has also take each of us by surprise. I guess there was this innate pent up desire to really make a difference to animation education on our own terms and things just fell into place. The response from the industry has been very humbling. It came as a big surprise to me when I saw people from training institutes encouraging us and even saying things like – “It is about time!” Colleagues and even friends from the corporate vendor fraternity continue to send in their good wishes. Friends in studios are helping us to spread the word around, so I guess the response is excellent.
KUMARESH: Our friends, colleagues, clients and relatives are all extremely happy and proud that we are doing this! I am extremely thankful for their wishes and blessings. Registrations from participants are also picking up very well.
Q. Are you planning sessions in select towns? Typically such sessions are held only in the big cities and aspirants from smaller towns miss out on them. Are you making any special effort to reach out to them?
RAM: We’ve been talking to a lot of people and we’ve noticed that there is an interest from a lot of places across the country. We would love to take this on the road, but considering our limited resources at this time, we’re still working the logistics out. With the right support, I am sure its only a matter of time before we start hitting every possible town in the country.
SINGH: We’re starting with Mumbai since the three of us have our immediate network here, that is just a natural step, but we’re hoping RamSinghKumaresh will travel pan-India. It all depends on the kind of support we get on the ground in other cities. Registrations, venue, travel, hospitality etc. are all factors that have to be looked at so that it remains a feasible venture. We don’t wish to pass on the burden to the market since then it would defeat the very purpose of our venture. This will remain affordable for those who are genuinely interested. We do have some guidelines as to the kind of support we are willing to take. We don’t want a situation where just by facilitating our sessions, an organisation exploits its association with us to further its own commercial interests without actually bringing real value to the table for the attending crowds.
KUMARESH: Yes. There have been many queries from different parts of the country. As long as people want to learn, we are most happy to conduct our classes in any part of the world!!
Q. This is a tricky question – Since all 3 of you are on the TASI committee, don’t you think there are chances of people confusing RSK with TASI, especially because of the sessions that are/will be organised by both entities? What will you do to ensure that doesn’t happen?
RAM: Speaking for myself here, I am a member of TASI, CGtantra, ASIFA, and will be a member of any and every other such organisation that I can lend my support to, to improve the animation scene in the country. I believe we’re all working towards the same goal. It is just that our formats, challenges and limitations are different. We are all basically supporting one another in filling in the spaces where another might have limitations. RSK for me is just another of such organisations that will allow me to collaborate with 2 super individuals, where we’re working for the exact same cause in a different format. People might confuse RSK with TASI but that confusion will last only till they personally experience what RSK is offering.
SINGH: There is no confusion. TASI is a volountary body and our commitment to it and its activities shall always remain. Nothing stops RamSinghKumaresh from conducting a session for TASI in the future as well. This is a commercial venture only to the extent that our time is paid for. The major difference here is that with TASI there is a huge machinery that is set into motion every month to organise and conduct events. We don’t have that luxury, but then that also gives us the flexibility to move very quickly. Also since TASI is a non-profit organisation and all of us volunteer our time, there are only so many days that one can take out and give gratis to the community. I think each of us has nothing left to prove as far as our commitment and passion for the Society is concerned. We’ve given and will continue to give time as before. With RamSinghKumaresh, the idea is to keep up a sustained effort through regular classes, which is a practical impossibility for TASI. It will be built into our personal work systems as yet another business vertical and therefore we will be able to make time for it without thinking of the opportunity costs. We aim to have at least 3 classes over a period of 4 weeks. Surely we can’t maintain this pace in our voluntary work. The home fires also have to be kept burning.
KUMARESH: We are charging a fee for our sessions at RamSinghKumaresh. For TASI, we have never expected a penny for our contributions and we never will. I am sure people understand as well as appreciate that.
Q. What is each one of you working on currently? How will you find time to manage both?
RAM: I’ve just come back from a month long teaching stint and am currently occupied with my usual consultancy work and some game designing. I’ll be starting with 2 of my short films in the next few weeks. Preproduction is already under way and production should start soon! Like I said, RSK was a surprise in all our calenders, but considering the time we’ve been putting in, it is surely as important as any of our professional projects at this point in time and we’ll be managing it just like we would manage any other professional project we have with us.
SINGH: I’m working on my book on Animation Production Management. Plus my consultancy, and independent masterclass programs for training institutes takes up most of my time. This is another project and will get scheduled accordingly. I can’t be teaching Production Management if I can’t even manage my own projects efficiently, now can I?
KUMARESH: We are currently flooded with too many projects!! It is a bit of a mad season! Two TV commercials, one print campaign design, a TV channel packaging, attending juries of animation students, and yes our own animation short film!! When you love what you’re doing, you always make time for it!
So here’s wishing RamSinghKumaresh success in their mission of spreading knowledge and breeding a healthier culture of animation for our aspiring animators and film makers. AAA will be present at the Masterclasses to cover the event and you can look forward to reading all about it right here on the All About Animation blog. Better still, go register yourself for the masterclasses here and experience the ‘gyaan’ live and direct from RamSinghKumaresh. Module 1 of the first Masterclass will be held on 24th April in Mumbai. For details, visit www.ramsinghkumaresh.com