An interview with Ashish Kulkarni, CEO, Reliance Animation
Are the animation institutes in India on par with their western counterparts in terms of infrastructure and technology?
The way animation education began in India, it was more on the vocational side than the mainstream, as the needs in our country were different. We were concentrating mainly on only production skills. In 2006 things started changing in India and the long-term degree programmes started having a much-needed totality and detailing in terms of curriculum for the segment. Some of the studio-based education academies have high-end infrastructure and technology that is required to be on par with their western counterparts.
Some of the upcoming education clusters are also now imparting long-term education for the artists interested in a career in animation, gaming, visual effects and comics sector. The most important factor is not about matching infrastructure and technology alone, but also to give a rock solid foundation of storytelling and film-making that goes a long way with the students.
Is the animation industry in India mature enough to provide a working environment for artists, without compromising on security, performance and artistic values?
As one is aware that we are still in the nascent stage and after being known as a successful outsourcing hub having delivered television series, home videos, gaming and feature films, we have recently ventured into creating animation, VFX and gaming content.
On one hand we do not get enough encouragement from the government policies to create original content out of India and on the other hand it is tough to find creative and artistic skills in the given education structure, where we do not have a marking system in standard X for creative, artistic and performing skills.
For those individuals with creative and artistic skills powered with determination, there is a great opportunity and when they start performing in studios they don’t really have to worry about security and value of their artistic skills. We have a much-needed working environment that is on par with the best in the world.
What are the real needs of the animation industry in India that need to be addressed?
The steps needed are: Long-term university programmes; artistic and creative skills to be treated on par with commerce and science; a change in education policy to accommodate artistic, creative and performing skills at middle-school and high-school level; co-production treaties with other countries and encouragement and incentives for creating and distributing original content in animation.
With India presenting itself as a favourable destination for the animation industry, what are the career options available?
Nowadays, animation is extensively used in areas of news broadcast and programming, defence, legal, medicine, architecture, design and so on and so forth. In the emerging era of digital content creation, a large number of jobs are also being created for ipad, ipod, tab, mobile programming and applications as well.
Along with the talent crunch, is the quality of education to groom the skill sets in animation industry, also a matter of concern?
It is true that the quality of education to groom the skill sets was targeted only at production skills and hence most of the training was focused on teaching software applications, but not the core skills of storytelling and film-making.
At the end of the day, animation, visual effects, gaming and comics (AVGC) are all about storytelling. Having a strong foundation of artistic skills coupled with fundamentals of storytelling and film-making lays the foundation for a student to make a career in AVGC sector. Technology is just an enabler, it is definitely required, but a good artist and a good storyteller always makes the best of the latest technology available.
The CEO of Reliance Animation, Ashish Kulkarni, is known for his versatility to produce world-class content by blending technology and creativity in the Indian animation industry. Ashish is the founder of Big Aims, an animation and VFX film-making academy from Reliance Animation, headquartered in Pune.
He has successfully created enviable projects consisting of animated feature films and television series, like the award-winning ‘Little Krishna’, the first high-end 3D TV series. Ashish, who has been associated with several prestigious national and international projects in animation speaks with DNA about the scenario in India.