After winning several awards for their ‘almost real animation’ characters in movies, the directors of Firefly Creative Studio struck gold with digital hair for ‘Ananganaga Oka Dheerudu.’ They talk about their work, past and future.

To get an idea of what they do, remember the talking dog in Godavari? Or the ammunition swallowing giant snake in Robo? The final fight in Magadheera where Sher Khan and his men battle it out on a narrow rock bridge? But this was not how Firefly began. Fighting failures with a brave front, they cracked their way into the Telugu movie industry and are now the pioneers in digital hair.

Their first business venture met with failure which left them high and dry along with debts to be re-paid. Their spirits were low, but the five partners wanted to give their talent one more shot and work on reasons for the failed business venture. With absolutely no resources in hand, the five friends/colleagues/like minded artists took a place on rent and got working with just two personal desktops. That was their office; no furniture, not even a chair. They practically lived there and since all the five could do everything from writing, drawing and graphic designing, they picked and every work that came their way.

Their first target was to earn Rs. 65,000 for the five of them, i.e. Rs. 13,000 each. “This amount was to meet our daily needs and also clear the debts,” recollects Phani Eggone. All they had was their talent and the passion for the animation industry which was only taking baby steps in India at that point of time. Those were the days when ‘learnt animation’ on the CV was an added advantage. Little did the bunch of the five animators know that one day, their work would be discussed in a paper of animation by giants like Walt Disney and Pixar.

Their technical know-how in multiple disciplines at times helped them and sometimes went against them too. Having put their fingers in every pie, they could lay their hands on the month’s earnings which exceeded their expectations — “We wanted Rs. 65,000 at the end of the month and we went on to make close to Rs. 1 lakh. At that point of time, our biggest indulgence was some office furniture. We bought two chairs,” informs Sanath P.C.

After months of struggle and doing what little work came their way they managed to crack inside the Telugu film industry and earn a project which had been taking ages to finish. “We managed to crack a deal with the makers of Anji. The work which was happening in London was getting late, and proving to be expensive, so the filmmakers decided to dump all that was done in London and start something afresh at home. When we got that project, we were thrilled,” recollects Nagesh H.N. 

For that project, the group hired some 30 animators/ graphic artists and put the money on the table and said, ‘here’s the money, buy what is required and begin work’. The team worked day and night but when the movie released it didn’t bring us good news. The movie bombed big time and once again our spirits were abysmally low, besides the fact that we were not paid. The earlier agency was credited and our credits were missing. That broke our hearts once more and after a good fight we managed to get ourselves in the credits,” recollects Phani. This was the time when the team became four from five.

Things however were still not hunky dory for this group of animation specialists. They couldn’t manage big projects and though they all specialised in 3D animation, they did whatever work they could, including 2D animations, graphics and writing as well, just to maintain the cash flow. 

But their stars shone bright and soon calls started pouring in to enquire about their work and how they could improve or incorporate animation to make a difference. “This was the time when Rajamouli started talking to us and we were beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. Once Chatrapati landed in our kitty, there was no looking back for Firefly,” adds Swami Subramanian, CEO, Firefly.

Most recently the team also worked on creating the special city in the Nagarjuna starrer Damarukam.

Now the team is planning on working on a home production with animation as the mainstay. “That is our target for the next year and we have already begun talks in the industry,” adds Subramanian.