Is it possible to draw a parallel between the Big Bang theory and creationist myths you may have read about in religious texts?
The Big Bang, which, broadly speaking, discusses the creation of universe from initial singularity is, for the wide-eyed and perceptive folks among us, similar in context to the story about how the Hindu God Brahma came into being.
It is easy to find such comparisons either preposterous or intriguing depending on the nature and depth of one’s belief and faith.
For G Jagadeesh Kanna, it presented an opportunity to introduce the concept of aeronautics to young children. The 30-year-old theatre artiste/actor-turned-filmmaker is also an entrepreneur, who, via his IIT-Madras incubated start-up firm — Vaayusastra Aerospace private limited, has been teaching aeronautics to children between the ages of five and 14. With the lockdown, he shifted his classes online in a move that seems like will pay him rich dividends.
“A child’s brain is like a computer’s CPU. What I do is create a folder by telling them a story about how Ravana kidnapped Sita using his aircraft, the Pushpak Viman . The child may forget the technical terms but the story registers in their mind, and that is all that is needed to create the spark,” he says, adding, “For instance, Karna’s Vijay dhanush had all properties of modern rocketry and radar technology and the Brahmastra in Mahabharatha is nothing but a ballistic missile.”
A few years ago, when Jagadeesh, a freshly-minted graduate with a Masters degree in Aeronautics, expressed his desire to pursue theatre, suffice to say it was not an easy-to-come-to-terms-with decisionfor his family.
“Being a full-time actor is not easy as I come from a middle class family. I could not ask my parents for money, not after they spent so much on my Masters degree. Since I had a lot of free time when I was not shooting, I started conducting paper plane workshops and teaching aeronautics to children,” he says.
During this time, Jagadeesh joined Little Theatre and Theatre Y, promoted by actor Yog Japee, and even landed himself a lead role in a film titled Naalu Peruku Nalladhuna Edhuvum Thappilla .
“By the time the movie released, I had gotten many word of mouth references about my workshops. one of my friends suggested that I approach IIT-Madras because they supported such initiatives,” he adds.
And so, Jagadeesh approached IIT-M’s Rural Technology Business Incubator with a presentation that was approved eight months later, after he developed an agreeable revenue model. “Meantime, I worked as assistant director to Rajiv Menon in Sarvam Thaala Mayam and as an associate director to Anita Udeep in 90 ML ,” he says.
After approval, Vaayusastra was given space inside IIT-M Research Park and a start-up capital of ₹10 lakh to hit the ground running. In the two years since being incorporated in April 2018, the firm has generated ₹50 lakh in revenue and taught close to 30,000 children, says Jagadeesh, adding that he also employs theatre artistes and aeronautical engineers.
“I developed this model to support theatre artistes because, when I was one, the main issue I had was money. If I did not have a project, then the next month was a huge question mark. With Vaayusastra, actors are paid per session (around two or three sessions per weekend) and they make around ₹15,000 per month, which allows them to pursue their passion with peace of mind. Also, only around 5 out of 100 aeronautical engineering graduates go onto work for ISRO, HAL, Boeing and such companies. The rest pursue higher studies or turn to teaching. Vaayusastra is a space for these people also to showcase their talents and gain experience,” he says.
Even as the hands-on workshops and summer camps were growing in popularity, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Jagadeesh acted swiftly to shift his classes online. The first batch started on April 15, and the next one is set to begin on May 13 with as many as 480 students participating till date.
“One of my mentors suggested that I drop the subscription fee and reach out to more people. I was charging ₹3,500-4,500 for the three month course earlier, now I charge less than ₹1,000. Whereas earlier, my reach was with parents of children who live in Mandaveli, Adyar area in Chennai, after moving classes to Zoom app, I’m able to reach more students. In the last batch, we had a group of 20 students from the UK taking part,” he adds.
Still only 30, Jagadeesh has a vision of expanding the base of his company. He reveals he has been in discussions with NIT Trichy and Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, and both institutions have agreed to incubate his firm.
“The first step is to have two more branches across Tamil Nadu. I can employ more theatre artistes this way,” he says.
However, he is not ready to let go of his dreams of turning a filmmaker just yet. Having met actor Oviya while filming 90 ML , Jagadeesh remarks that she agreed to play the lead in a film he intends to direct. “Only the official confirmation remains,” he adds.
For more details: www.vaayusastra.com