Business partners Anand Gurnani and P. Rama Krishna are on a road-show across the country with a single mission — to spread the word about the endless possibilities of animation among professionals, industry, faculty in institutes and students. Geeta Padmanabhan catches up with the duo

Listening to Anand Gurnani and his partner-in-business P. Rama Krishna (RK) is like reading an “animation” dictionary. You hear a compound a-word in every sentence they make: they met at animation conferences in Mumbai which RK would travel all night from Hyderabad to attend. Gurnani got RK on board his Animation for a single-point journey. Theirs will be the voice of the Indian AVCG (Animation VFX, Comics and Games) industry. For nine years, they've promoted animation possibilities. The two brand themselves animation evangelists.

Whirlwind tour

Creating their own game of T20, Gurnani and RK whirl-winded the country — Jaipur to Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore to Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh to Chennai. Hitting 20 cities in 20 days, they conducted animation industry-academia meet-ups in the day, drove down national highways at night. They got studios, institutes, professionals, faculty and stakeholders in the animation ecosystem in each of these cities to discuss quality standards, industry unity and India's growth in the global animation space.

At the LV Prasad Lab auditorium they talked of their “animated” life. “Animation is a fun universe, it's live, coloured magic, creates worlds in your mobile, laptop, TV, big screen, you can lose yourself in this animated world,” gushes Gurnani. “My love affair with animation started when I was reading Enid Blyton books such as The Faraway Tree and The Enchanted Woods. I could imagine their detailed descriptions.” Then came Popeye and Disney cartoons. His appreciation of all things animated grew to a point where he found school too stationary. He dropped out and surfaced as an animation journalist. In his long innings at the writing crease, he saw animation's possibilities. He resolved to add to its growth, with a B2B focus.

They had the capital. Gurnani's networking habit had yielded an inbox full of contacts. He had interviewed over a 1000 people in India, Hollywood, the U.K. and Western Europe. He had done animation tourism, once taking 40 students to Singapore. RK ran a computer graphics academy. Together they would highlight Indian animation development and work for better structure collaboration in the ecosystem.

A case for animation

They have the arguments. “Animation's time has come,” says Gurnani. “Companies such as Dreamworks, Technicolor, MPC, Imageworks, Rhythm House and Ubisoft are here because of the talent pool.” Animation is also used for simulation — for military/pilot training, medical operations, teaching and research. “India has what it takes to be the world's best, Karnataka has announced a whopping sum for the AVCG industry. Even at short notice, 44 people attended the meeting at Hyderabad.”

Their T20 is a winner, they said. Animation associations will be formed; standards will be established; best practices will be incorporated. They will collect action points for growth and pass them on to the associations. Courses will happen and teachers will come from a central registry. “Indian artists are as good as international ones. Our production is excellent. We just have to tune up pre- and post-production. Why can't our computer science engineers work with the animation industry?”

They have the training modules. “I am passionate about standardising animation education in India, as has been done for Engineering, Medicine and other streams,” says RK. He's working on a series of tests students will take through the course. “The idea is to evaluate and give feedback constantly, to give motivation and a reference to know how they are faring.”

They have the roadmap. Animation/CGI/VFX is a younger field, RK points out. “Fine Arts students should be doing animation productions. We want to bridge fine arts and technology — artists paint landscapes/environment with digital tools.” There is a career as a background artist for animation, they say. For that the artist needs education. He may not be able to pay for the expensive animation course. Maybe the government can support him, help with standardisation. “The question is, how do you bring the industry focus into education?”

On the road, in conference halls, at workstations — they dream of large amounts of animation content for small and large screens, see Indian stories going global through animation. “VFX has different uses in different genres of cinema, and our VFX quality is great already. We want the associations to introduce best practices, set the standards for AVCGI education and lobby with governments for recognition of the animation industry. India will become a leader in animation.” Till then, their road-show will go on.

What’s their wish

RK's wish: I am waiting for an Indian ‘Avatar'. We have stories, the wherewithal for animation. It will bring huge revenues. It flashes before my eyes. It will happen.

Anand Gurnani's wish: Our artisans, craftsman and traditional artists can work wonders and bring in richness into Indian animation. Indian Animation can provide them the opportunity. Animation and allied fields will foster economic development of art in India.