Balaji Lakshmanan is the brain behind the six-foot humanoid robot in the film Mugamoodi

Once Balaji Lakshmanan met film director Mysskin who was on the look out for a humanoid robot for his film Mugamoodi, there was no looking back. After all, robots are such a huge part of his work! Balaji graduated in Computer Science and joined the Robotics and Robot Learning Research Programme in IIT Madras. After setting up a robotic lab with his Institute batchmates, he started his own startup —

For the last three years, Balaji has been busy doing core robotics projects for Corporates. Till date, he has trained about 4,000 college and school students in robotics through workshops, and has designed robotic kits for children.

Although Balaji knew the technical aspects that went into the making of the humanoid, it was a huge challenge to make one for a movie. “This was my maiden attempt at making a functional six-ft robot, but I was really excited as there was so much to learn. I was inspired by the way they made the robots in the film Terminator,” says the 29-year-old.

It took about seven months to complete the 80-kg robot. “We had initially planned to do the interior and then fit the exterior, but the plan got reversed during execution, so that was another big challenge. Art director Bala gave his inputs on the aesthetic aspects of the humanoid. Mysskin and his team were impressed with the humanoid that could turn its head from side to side, walk, lift its hands, open its jaw and fists.” Balaji does not play the scientist in the movie. But, he was directing his humanoid during the shoot — controlling every action of the robot through a wireless computer. Balaji is thrilled that most of his office lab instruments were used in the movie. “Girish Karnad actually did an experiment with those instruments for the movie,” recalls Balaji.