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Rajiv Ruia speaks about My Friend Ganesha 3 and more

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Rajiv S Ruia
Being a sequel to the popular composite film My Friend Ganesha part 1&2 that released within the last two years, this film is expected to do as well as the previous one which is said to have aired 156 times on satellite television in two year. To find out more we talk to director Rajiv S Ruia to learn about why he chose to experiment with animation and how his experience was while making his first composite film.

When did you first decide to make a composite animation film?
I am a huge fan of Lord Ganesha and my producers wanted to make a film for children and specifically on Ganesha. So we decided to experiment and make a composite film where a live action character and an animated Ganesha would be merged in one film. Being our first composite animated film, there were many difficulties such as how to make a live actor, that too a child, talk in an empty frame and make him dance with the non- existent animated character, etc. So we first shot an experimental scene and did composite animation in it. When we were convinced that it would be successful, we went ahead to plan the whole film.

What kind of research did you do before making the film?
I had studied many Hollywood composite films before starting work on the film. I have got a lot of inspiration from these films. One such film was Scooby Doo from which I gained a lot of knowledge on how to make composite films. The film had a 3D animated dog in a live action environment and it was very interesting to see how the shots were created.

Which other films have you worked on before My Friend Ganesha?
My first film was a commercial action film called Mission Bombay where I had launched Sonu Sood as an actor. After that, My Friend Ganesha was my second film. I have made many music videos and commercial advertisements. My mentor was a very great director in the South, Vijay Reddy, who had made Teri Meherbania and many other films. As an editor too, I had confidence in the experiment and so I went on to make a composite film.

What challenges did you face when making My Friend Ganesha 1-2 and 3?
We didn't come across many challenges in Part 1&2 because all the difficulties had already been experienced in Part 1 . The biggest difficulty in Part 1 was to make a child act in such a way as though someone is standing in front of him when actually there is no one. For that we had to make some sketch work to show the child where the animated character would be standing and what reaction it would have at each instant. The child then would have to keep that in mind when acting.

Could you describe the shots in part 3 that were difficult to make?
Part 3 is India's first full 3D composite animation movie. It"s a challenge. To me every shot between Ganesha and 3D animated Ganesha is difficult to shoot.

How important is it to coordinate with the animation studio?
Shooting a composite scene without online animators is very difficult. It's very important to have animators with you on set all the time. We had an animation director with us throughout. You tend to shoot a scene in your own way but an animation director can tell you whether that scene can be animated or not and how we should shoot it to make it possible.

Were all your scenes pre planned or were there some last minute changes?
Many times there were last minute changes but those changes would be made only after taking the advice of the whole team and discussing it over with the team.

In My Friend Ganesha the looks of Lord Ganesha keep changing with the sequels. What kind of role do you play in the character design?
In a composite film, once the look of the character is decided and locked, it remains that way throughout the film. Here the most difficult part was the model design and finalizing the look of the character. The character design was not exactly how I had envisioned it. Animation is such a medium that you cannot make out on paper, exactly how the character will look in the film. The whole picture gets clear only after the character comes on the screen. In live action, during editing, if you want to include a close up shot, you can take a cut out and incorporate it in the scene. However, in animation this is not possible and if one shot is missing, you need to do the entire scene again. We came across some such problems even in part two where we had to go backwards to change some scenes, which was the reason the film got delayed.

Was there a dummy of the animated character made?
Yes we had made a dummy mainly for the magnification of the camera. Many a times when you have to use a trolley shot in an empty frame, we would have to erase the dummy. To avoid that, we had locked the magnification of the camera. We had also used chroma screens in many difficult shots such as one where Ganesha and lord Ganesha were both on a boat.

So is the whole family your target audience for the film?
We counted family as only 30 per cent of our target audience. The main target is children under 12 years of age.

In part two, Ganesha has a new modern look and is speaking English. Was this pre decided when making part one?
We just felt that in part one, Ashu had taught Ganesha some English. So when he would come down on Earth in part two and not know English, it would look absurd. And the look that we have designed this time is different. In part one, we had shown a middle class family where a boy would imagine Ganesha as God. In part two, we have modern boy who does not believe in God but if he would imagine God, he would think of Him in his own way, coming on skates or a bike and with tattoos. It was not pre planned, but it just came with the concept.

What are your plans for the licensing and merchandising for the film? To whom does the IP for the films belong?
The IP for the films belongs to the producers, Baba Arts limited. We do have merchandising plans. We had tied-up with a company ,for the first film which included Ganesha masks, toys, rakhis, T-Shirts, etc. The merchandising for the current film is now underway, to be released in Vaction, which will also have T-shirts, toys, caps etc

What is going to happen in Part Four ?
Part three has already been announced and in that we are going to have a very unique concept from parts one two and three. In the previous films, Ganesha used to go to those kids that needed help and were calling for him. In this one, Ganesha himself will find the kid in need and go to him.

Could you tell us a little about the concept and character design o the film.
Right now the film is at a very initial stage and the character design takes at least three months to finalize. However, the concept and character look this time will be very unique and we have thought of using animation in a very different style.

What do you think of composite films as a genre?
I feel that composite films are really appreciated by the audience as seen in the results of this film. Yesterday itself, in one day, we sold one lakh DVD copies. It' a record of sorts. Another record was set by part one of the film which was aired 156 times on satellite. We are expecting maximum TRPs for the satellite broadcast of the sequel, as was the case with part one & two.

Do you feel that animation as a medium is better or easier than live action?
Every medium has its own characteristics, in a completely animated film, you do get engrossed but you look at it as animation. In this film, with the animated character coming to the live action actor, the experience was created where you feel that the character is actually coming to you. In fact we have heard of many children beginning to do daily pooja after watching our film.

Your comments on animation market in India?
There have been many animated films that have been made till today, however Hanuman was the one which was really liked by the audience. Hum Tum which also had animation; was really appreciated. Now that so many films are lined up for release, there will be some at least that will be liked and appreciated in the market. There must be some good business in the industry, because there are so many animated films lined up for production now.

Do you think you get good ROI in a film which used animation?
Part one had a budget of two and a half crores part two had a budget of 4to 5 crores while the budget of the current film was around 7 to 8 crores. However we had planned the film and budget keeping the returns in mind. The previous part 1& 2 film had been very successful and we were sure to have good ROI from the thirdSS film.

Which are the other projects apart from My Friend Ganesha that you are working on?
Apart from this, I am working on two parallel films, one is Tarzan the wonder car, a sequel of the live action Hindi film Tarzan which will be again a 3D animation cum live action composite film. Much if the pre production work of the film has been completed and we will commence the shooting by May end. I think that the kids will enjoy the gimmicks of the car done in the film. Additionally, there is quite a bit of liberty when working with 3D, which is not available in 2D. In 3D what ever a live action character can do, we can create in 3D, while 2D has many limitation. In this film, the car will have a 60 per cent realistic look and 40 per cent cartoony look and I feel that even adults will enjoy it.

Read more about: rajiv ruia, my friend ganesha
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