Journey of the Mosabhai and Vadabhau Rap
Gup-Shup with Vaibhav Studios I Animation Studio
Who would've imagined a Rap Battle between a Vadapav and a Samosa! Well, here it is..
We got an opportunity to have a “Gup-Shup over Chai” with Vaibhav Kumaresh and his team at Vaibhav Studios who are known for their brilliant work and funny cute scripts. Well, this Gup-Shup with them reveals all the turmoil that goes behind the making.
We’ve all seen your films and it goes without saying your work is truly remarkable, but how did you come up with the idea of using actual Food items as the heroes in the film.
The dancing food product films were purely inspired by a small personal short film created by Anand Babu many years ago. Called 'Pista', the short features actual cashews, pistas and other nuts jumping and singing to a Tamil song on a table top.
I found it extremely hilarious and was very keen that this concept of live objects performing be presented to the mass audiences. Also, over the years of working on our feature film Return of the Jungle, I had had enough of the digital 3D animation medium.
I was very keen to work on something crude, physical, tactile and non-digital.
So, a couple of years ago when Nickelodeon approached us to design a new identity campaign for them, I was very tempted to pitch this idea. Anand and I (Vaibhav) brainstormed on what other options we could have in the series. We put together a pitch docket and shared it with team Nick. Fortunately, they were equally thrilled with the idea as we were and we found someone to pay for us to have fun! :)
How does the conceptualization of a film take place? Can you take us through the entire turmoil that goes behind?
Well, each project begins with a rough thought. Sometimes, the idea is pretty clear in the beginning, For eg with the Garba song that was done for Navratri. We were pretty clear about playing with Gujarati delicacies. Sometimes though we start with a crazy thought and develop as we proceed. For the Rap battle, we had initially thought of doing a battle of sweet and spicy street food items, but later settled for the Samosa and the Vada pav because of the personality the characters offered.
Later we carry out case studies, trying to visualize the set-up, understanding the mood of the film. There are a lot of people involved in each process and it’s only possible by assigning a particular task to each and later stitching them up. For instance, Visual research (by Abha Shah, Annie Jerry, Sahil Sheikh, Dipantor Talukdar, Santosh Pujari), Lyrics and music (by Roto Shah, The Bliss, Vaibhav Kumaresh, Dapun Rai Dewan), Character Design (by Anand Babu), Animatic (by Dapun Rai Dewan & Vaibhav Kumaresh), Model making (by Tapas Jana & Bhavesh Gondaliya), Rigging (by Tapas Jana), Set Design (by Tapas Jana, Bhavesh Gondaliya, Avinash Gulhane, Rajib Debnath, Santosh Pujari, Ajit Aher), Camera (by Abhijit Ghodake), Lighting and colour grading (by Sagar Kulkarni & Jayesh Panchal), Puppetry (by Ajit Aher, Dapun Rai Dewan, Tapas Jana, Bhavesh Gondaliya, Jayesh Panchal, Sweta Nayak, Santosh Pujari, Suman Manna, Anand Babu, Vaibhav Kumaresh), 2D animation (by Dapun Rai Dewan, Ajit Aher, Tapas Jana, Suman Manna, Jayesh Panchal, Rajib Debnath, Santosh Pujari, Aadarsh), Wire Removal (by Abhijit Ghodke, Sweta Nayak, Bhavesh Gondaliya, Avinash Gulhane, Rajib Debnath, Santosh Pujari), Compositing (by Abhijit Ghodake), Production manager (Sweta Nayak), Studio assistance (Baadal Chaurasiya & Hemlata Chandekar)
I am really curious to know how one works with food items. As they are perishable in nature and might tend to lose shape in the process.
Definitely it was a challenge initially, this is something we have also understood and evolved with the projects we’ve carried. A lot goes up with the food. They are taped, attached to strings, sometimes it gets absolutely messy and contributes a lot of wastage, in the end with the long shooting hours they are not even in their original form! So for the Rap battle which took us days to shoot, we understood the items would just become stale and we decided to make them.
Musabhai and Vadabhav are fake!
Haha! Yes, they are actually made of resin and then painted by Tapas Jana, Bhavesh, Gondaliya, Rajib Debnath and Santosh Pujari. Most of the food items in the film are artificial and hand painted and you won’t realize it until you actually hold them. This proved to be a better option to work with food as you can also repeatedly use them, without the tension of breaking them or bothering about flies haha!
Can you take us through the process of how The Rap Battle song was made?
It indeed takes a village for a film to come out as you see it on-screen. The ideal way to proceed is to be distributed in departments where everybody has a key responsibility. Our team was divided into several departments like the ones we mentioned above.
Since, this was imagined to be a rap battle - the lyrics and the beats had to set the mood of the entire film. Hence, we asked a professional rapper ‘The Bliss’ to help us write some of the words.
Even we contributed to the lyric writing and once we were happy with the final draft began the journey of visualizing the film. We performed to the beats and rap battled playing different characters. Initially the aim was just to have a lot of fun and experiment.
We carried out a Visual research and a small team went out to the market to document the overall ambience of a vada pav stall, this was crucial as even the smallest of detail had to be noted – the process of making, the items used, the language of the stall and even the lighting.This gave us a lot of idea of how to begin with the film and making of each prop followed.
It was important for the film to fit the 30 sec time frame and yet feel completed and not too rushed or slowed down so the Animatic played an important role.
The film went through several mock edits, with the animatic itself going through various revisions.
Then a vada pav and a samosa was ordered and we made a mock edit using phone cameras to see how it worked when shot in the real space, a lot of times we get crazy ideas while preparing the mock edits so this really helps build up the film. It helps us visualize what props go against what and how the set and the characters appear from an angle of the film. Animation is a serious process of experimenting in real time and not being afraid of trails and mockups, as with each take- a better sense is gathered.
Lighting, which is also a critical element, was taken into consideration and since an overhead light was used, we had to make several trials to avoid shadows and capture the essence just right.
After the Animatic, the endless mock edits and trails - we finally set to work on the final cut.
However things are staged, it’s essential for everything to feel authentic. The spilling of besan from the khadhai, the litter of bits and pieces of food, the newspapers and the textures are details that make the film look alive.
Even with the main character being fake, we took special care to make it look as realistic as possible.
When all the characters - real and fake are prepared, we rig them to wires, strings (depending on their roles in the film) so they act as puppets who are dancing along, and set forth for the filming.
Post-production, removing those wires actually seem really challenging and as almost no green screen is used. Our team edits each wire, frame by frame. This is indeed the most fatiguing part of the process.
Simultaneously, as the clips get cleaned, the 2D team gets on with animating the facial expressions and hand movements on all the characters. That’s the real deal as all the characters slowly come to life.
It’s a fun activity of studying styles of the character and the personality they need to ordain.
“Once it’s all done, we create a final line up of the edit with the soundtrack, and then hand it over to the client, Nickelodeon,”
Phew! That’s all that goes into the making of a Vaibhav Studios film.
With each film the studio makes, the culture is taken highly into consideration. With the usage of the food items, the sound tracks and even the characters. What do you think the advantages are belonging to a culturally rich country?
To begin with, we don't ever make a conscious attempt to preserve or depict our culture. The truth is we have grown up in this amazingly rich country absorbing everything around us. Hence, it's just natural that it pours out through our work. What goes in, comes out! :)
The huge variety that our country possesses simply offers us so much fodder for storytelling! Be it language, mannerisms, beliefs, literature, art forms, food, music, clothing, dance, worship or wisdom - there's so much to choose from.
Where do you think Indian animators stand globally?
On the animation front, we have a long way to go. Despite us being from the land of storytellers, a majority of animation studios based in India are happy to invest their energies to tell others' stories. As a result, we are losing the art of telling our own stories and engaging our own audiences. For this reason, we are unfortunately also viewed globally as mere service providers. The most successful animation film makers have first wowed their own audiences with their brilliant craft, and then gone on to win the world. We seem to be aiming at the world without even knowing how to engage our own audience. That's a big mistake. Having said that we do possess some brilliant animation artists and storytellers. The direction they choose will determine where we land up in the next decade.
As a studio we are committed to the Indian audience first. In my opinion they are a huge market, and as storytellers they are the audience we understand best. So, we will always continue to make our films for them.
You’ve been in the business since a long time and definitely might have experienced a change in the way animation is perceived now. Could you tell us any notable difference you’ve witnessed?
Unlike two decades ago, animation today is a lucrative career option. It offers a variety of career options right from films, entertainment, gaming, comics, vfx, to education, medical aids, architecture, and virtual reality. The exposure to a variety of animation styles from all across the globe has ensured that the audience is no more restricted only to children.
For any starting out Animator - what is that one piece of advise you would give?
First, gain clarity to understand why you love the medium.
Second, plunge whole heartedly into what you love doing. That's the only way to excel in your work.
Vaibhav Studios has created some of India’s favourite animated content in the field of TV commercials and channel promos: the Amaron Battery ad campaign, Chulbuli for Clinic Plus, Buladi’s AIDS awareness campaign for the West Bengal government, the Vodafone Zumis, Simpoo the angry sardaar math teacher on Channel [V] and Lamput the globally acclaimed, Emmy nominated micro short series for Cartoon Network to name a few. The studio has won innumerable national and international awards for its films including the Asian Academy Awards, Abbys, Promax, BDA, and is the only Indian animation studio ever to be nominated for an International Emmy. Vaibhav Studios is currently working on its maiden feature film titled Return of the Jungle set to complete in 2021.
Gup-Shup with Vaibhav Studios