Tete-A-Tete with Arpan Gaglani, Creative Director of Delhi Safari and Krayon Pictures

CGTantra gets you some exclusive excerpts from the candid interview that we had with Arpan Gaglani, Creative Director of the movie 'Delhi Safari' and Krayon Pictures. Everyone is eagerly awaiting the release of this high-end 3D Stereo Animated Feature from one of the finest studios prevalent in the country currently. Releasing on 19th October , Arpan shares with us, the journey that he sailed through successfully overcoming all the challenges that the team went through whilst making the movie...
Lets get started.........
1. I would like to start with a very cliched question :) as to How has been the experience of making Delhi Safari ?
Overall it's been a great learning experience. All these years I have been working on outsourcing projects, learning and understanding the art and trick of animation. But somewhere it started getting monotonous and boring,as I was not involved in the creation aspect of filmmaking but only following artwork/ designs provided by clients.

But on Delhi safari it was a different ball game altogether.The opportunity to express my self and commitment to set high standards was definitely the driving force. Every day we were faced with new problems and challenges...but coming out of it successfully was most rewarding,not just for me but for the whole team too!
2. Was there any research that went into making the overall look of the film - the characters , the design, the sets, the mannerisms, the speech etc.? OR Was there any research done at the pre-production stage in order to set the overall look and feel of the film? If yes, can you elaborate on the same..
I would say, extensive research! It is plain and simple.. We just wanted to be absolutely sure of every design before we start the actual production of work.
Characters: We knew from the beginning that we have one shot at creating memorable characters, but the question was, what should we design that would tap the pulse of our Indian audience (not just the animation friendly audience). How will they be able to relate with them.So we came up with the term "realistic but stylized". We thought that if we created characters with too much of stylization, it might just go over them. Keeping them very toony or extremely realistic would reduce the fun/seriousness of the characters.So if you see the characters,they are quite simple in form,but the addition of fur gets the sense of realism in them.We were 100% sure we didn't want a leopard to walk like human.Didn't want to generate the subconscious feeling that some human is wearing a fur coat and acting some Bollywood scenes. A leopard should look and behave like a leopard and the same goes for the rest of our characters too.
In terms of stylization we went with bigger heads in proportion to their body. We wanted the eyes to be very expressive, hence the eyes are big and prominent. We also didn't want any of our characters to resemble the real actors. We want people to remember 'Bajrangi', 'Alex' in their animated form and not as govinda or akshaye Khanna.
We knew that subtle amount of squash and stretch will be used in the animation.Simpler form really helped us in achieving that easily.I keep telling everyone that if one has to visualize a ginger to squash and stretch in its real form, it just does not seem to look correct!.But if one has to visualize a balloon...well we can visualize it very clearly..right? So we got rid of real anatomical shape and made the elbows, knees, fingers, etc very straight and simple.
Sets: Firstly..We didn't want to invent the wheel!
Delhi safari is a story of bunch of animals traveling from Mumbai to Delhi and that to hidden!
Few of us decided to travel along the path which our animals would have taken and thereby collect references .So we went to the remotest part of Kutch,Rajasthan, jungle of Sariska and obviously Delhi.I am from Mumbai and have grown up playing and exploring in my beloved Borivali national park.

Largely all the major sets in the film have been influenced by the reference images we collected from Recce. For example the set created for the flemingo garba song is really an abandoned sun temple in Kutch. We came across a mountain called KALO DUNGAR at indo pak border in Kutch and locals told us that it's a place where you will find lots of foxes. We used the same rock formation for our heyna sequence.

All the trees, rocks, plants, Delhi city elements, goods train, tracks...etc are referenced out of the recce images.Very few Internet image reference were used. The creation of sets was based on the Lego technique. As I wanted every frame to have that photographic staging.This technique helped me in moving elements freely at the layout stage. Again the design element was based out of realistic but stylized and also kept simple to reduce production complications.

Working on outsourcing projects for US required certain actions and body language which the Americans would relate to.We knew that we cannot use those kind of mannerism or gestures for our film.Can you imagine govinda acting like one of the male characters of Disney..no way!! Similarly Bajrangi also cannot!! nor any of the other characters. Gestures used in India are different from US or any other country.So we decided to go with our typical mannerism and gestures so that everyone in india can relate to them easily.
3. Pertaining that Nikhil Advani has some of the best Live-Action Hindi features to his credentials , how has been the experience working with him on an Animated Feature ?
Nikhil was very clear in the beginning... he knew how and what he wanted to tell his audience,and told us to add the 'tadka' of telling story through the medium of animation.A complete freehand was given to us right from the beginning. He always open to ideas and promptly acted upon the suggestions given by us.

Because of Nikhil we got to work closely with really talented actors.The idea of doing an acting/stage workshop with the actors was really helpful.We could see the whole movie enacted in front of us.It not only helped us in understanding the flow of the movie, but it served a great reference for animators at the later stages of movie.

The funny part working with Nikhil was that his reactions were very spontaneous and on the spot. He would "Like"the image or "Not" like it.The answer would be a simple yes or no.If its No,then we have to figure it out what it is. No explanation given.Luckily for us, the NO's were very rare! :)

Altogether it was a great experience for me, right from being involved with script,shooting the actors,understanding how music is composed,background score,editing,final mix and personally being in charge of color grading the whole film (DI).
4. Its been quite sometime since Delhi Safari took-off for production... How do you manage to maintain the creative equilibrium amongst yourself and your team for the movie to have a consistent flow, specially when a good amount of time has gone by.
Well, for any kind of consistency in creatives,the only thing that will help is proper planning and complete visualization at preproduction stage. Delhi safari has been made in a span of 3 years and had different stages. When we first started we were a handful.We knew we had to build the studio from scratch. Our kick-ass Art Director, Aditya Sharma started creating sketches from the brief given by Nikhil. We also had to collect a talent pool of people to work on this film. Not only talented,but guys sharing the same passion to create a benchmark.I remember we hired almost 30 freshers from various institutes to form an animation team.Our Animation director Rafique Ahmed trained them for almost 5 to 6 months and got them nearly production ready.

As we were training artist for various department, pre-production was in full swing. In order to get a look and feel of the film and also be confident about it,we decided to do a sample sequence.We worked towards that goal and I remember how excited we all were when we had our first screening with a small audience of 40.They all loved it and that became our first benchmark for us to follow.As we went through a lots of ups and downs, our initial preproduction and the first sequence always helped in keeping the whole film on track.
5. Indian audiences have certain pre-conceived notions in their mind when it comes to Indian Animation Film. Did that affect your mindset whilst designing various creative aspects of the movie.
The certain Pre-conceived notions of the Indian audience would be that animation medium is generally for kids, all about mythological stories and for the smarter animation audience "bad quality".We knew that from the beginning. But the biggest culprit of all, according to me lies in the storytelling! Mythological stories are great,but we are just not ready and won't be able to do justice to such larger than life stories. For me lord of the rings is a bench mark...our mythological stories deserve equal quality or more than that.

Keeping these aspects in mind we knew we had to really keep a check on the way we want to tell the story. We storyboarded the whole film, made a 2D animatic with scratch sound and FX and showed it to select audience for their reviews.We went through a lot of changes, till we were sure that the movie is working in 2d form.

Even for characters we did rounds of reviews form various age groups..and especially kids..they are just so straightforward and straight from the heart.They have a very different and interesting way of looking at a characters, which we adults don't see!

It's just a matter of time and we will come to know whether our storytelling will make an impact on the mass audience or not.
6. How different it is to work on a 3D stereoscopic feature? Does that affect creative decisions as well as everything looks more intensified than the normal.
A feature film has to be made the way a film has to be made. According to me 3D stereoscopic Is just an added dimension to excite the audience..but it does not really help in storytelling. In fact the overuse of it will surely kill the storytelling.

Originally Delhi safari was not intended to be made in stereo, and I thank god for that...cause I am very sure we would have got carried away and would have designed sequences specifically for stereo.

After the movie was over..we decided not to do the normal 3D conversion, but instead render out the second camera.

We have been very careful as to which shot should get greater depth.We want the viewing to be easy on the eyes and the audience should follow the story rather than getting troubled by stereo.

The only challenge would be at the technological end where you have to render the film two times. A lot of time is spent in the animation dept. getting the camera right and obviously the investments one has to make to support this technology.
7. Delhi Safari teasers has generated great reviews for the Look-and-feel that it carries in itself. What kind of coordination is required between the teams in order to achieve the look that the film has today? Is there a lot of back-and-forth that happens at production level ? If yes , then how do you manage the same and yet maintain to integrate necessary creative nuances..
I am thankful to everyone for the support they are extending for the film and hoping that not just the look and feel, but the whole film as a story is liked by them.

Coordination between the artist is definitely important as every artist has to stay on the same page throughout the course of the film. Delhi safari is a collaborative output of the studio.Whatever you have seen or will see in the film is the mind of 200 crazy artist having given their 100%.

To get all these minds on the same page, the first thing that we conduct in the morning is called "Dailies". Its a very common word used in studios abroad.This is one place where everyone who has worked the previous day gets screened in front of everyone. Everyone has complete freedom to scrutinize,like,hate and bombard it with their thoughts.All artist take it sportingly..and who do not..have to .. :) It has worked wonders and you can see the result for your self.

Please know that we were creating stuff all by ourselves for the first time..a lot of back and forth was bound to happen.We were constantly trying to make things look better and better.Just to keep us on track the small team of production kept reminding us of deadlines.We did lot of mistakes and kept learning from it.We all knew that if a shot is not looking great and we are not satisfied with the outcome, guys used to spend extra hours just to perfect it and stay on course too!
8. In the end , Delhi Safari is nearing its release and heap of expectations are built upon it within the fraternity particularly and general crowd as well... What are your views on the same...
I can now only hope that they like and enjoy the film. All I can say is that we have given our best shot and no shortcuts have been taken.In the end it's our first film and we aspire to do more and whatever we have learned from this film can be put to use in another!
9. Any Last minute stomach pangs that you would want to tell the audience about?
Delhi safari not only releases in India but in the US, Russia, UAE, China, and hopefully a lot of European countries.
Thats not all..CGTantra would also be featuring an exclusive interview covering the technical aspect that went into the making of "DELHI SAFARI"... So , Keep yourself hooked to this section...