Founder at Vaanarasena Studios
Every geography has a story and origin. These stories create the culture of the space and hence influence the morals of the individuals who reside there. While some may say all stories are the same, each iteration is worthy of telling to a wider audience. This is what Vivek Ram is trying to do with “Vaanarsena Studios”, an animation studio which focuses on content that has its roots in Indian mythology and history.
Vivek Ram is called the senadhipathy (commander-in-chief) of “Vaanarsena Studios”. Started just three years ago with a workforce consisting of just himself, the studio has now grown in the past year to over a hundred trainees and team members. True to his title, Vivek is now leading this huge army of animators trying to establish an industry which produces animated content based on Indian stories.
Here is an excerpt from an interview with Soar2High :
What made you start “Vaanarsena”?
I have always been fascinated by these stories. I have grown up reading ‘Amara Chithra Katha’ and hearing stories from my parents and grandparents like most Indian kids. So I slowly started researching and reading more of these epics and ‘Puranas’ and ‘Upanishads’. I fell in love with it. So, for me it is an expression of love for these stories. When I was working in other studios like “Rhythm and Hues” and “Dreamworks”, I was just craving to create something that was about our stories. So we started this three years ago and here we are, telling Indian stories to the world.
What is the best experience you have had in the three years of “Vaanarsena”?
It would have to be last year. 2020 was not a good time for a lot of people, but for us it was amazing. We opened up the option to volunteer for a larger audience. Initially when we started, we just had 2-3 people writing to us. Then people started volunteering with us. We had about three volunteers at the start of January, 2020. Then more people wanted to train with us, so we opened it up to everyone. Today we are sitting at a hundred trainees. And it has only been around six months since we started this. And they are all learning to be better artists. It has been an amazing experience. They even put together a small video for me as a ‘thank you’ for all the work we have been doing, for our third year anniversary which was amazing.
All journey has its share of hardships. What has been the most challenging phase in these three years?
The toughest situation I would say was at the start. We are still at the starting stage but we are better than the first two years. When I started to do “Vaanarsena”, it is a very different concept. It is not traditional retelling of the myths. It is storytelling with our favourite characters. So, it is very risky for investors and producers to put their money into this. But I was sure that I wanted to do it. It is not about the big business, but putting the messaging, the philosophy and the content out there for people to see it. And this was not a good business model to pitch. The content we have is “Adult Animation” which is non-existent in India. Usually animation is targeted towards children of about 5 to 10 years old. Our content was aimed at sixteen years and older. So we cannot promise anyone that this is going to work. There is no example to show. It is just my vision that they have to rely on. So the first two years were very challenging as I was doing this alone as well.
What dreams do you see for your company to achieve?
We really want to be the biggest content producing engine. People might laugh at this vision but we really want our content to move out of India. That itself is a vast dream. There are so many stories in India that I can spend my entire life doing those stories, and the goal is to be able to do those stories and more. If we can create a content platform for Indian based content where even artists from abroad can come and create content, that would be the main goal. To put it very loosely, something like a ‘Disney’ that is built in India. Animators from India are working abroad for content that is produced in these places. But there is no Indian content being made. We do not want to be the only studio, because we need to create and set up this industry of adult animation. There should be a thousand “Vaanarsenas” so to say for this to work.
Listen to our conversation to know more about Vivek’s journey and what are his future plans.