Wayanad: Laidback in Wayanad's cool climes, walking through the farms, drenched in the drizzle, Sanath P C is free from the hustle and bustle of filmdom and his oft-busy schedule at his Firefly Creative Studio, Hyderabad that helped produce visually rich films such as 'Bahubali' and 'Pulimurukan'.
Selected to the panel of experts in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the year 2023-24 in the visual effects category which is behind the OSCAR film awards, Sanath is excited. "Now we would be able to tell the world our stories in a better way as I am part of a prestigious global body," he said.
It has been a long journey of two and half decades for Sanath in the world of visual effects in the motion picture industry after launching his own company. For this expert, now it is time to reach out to the global players. Sanath and two NID (National Institute of Designing) classmates launched the Firefly Creative Studio in Hyderabad back in 2002, after working together in that city for a couple of years.
"My attraction to cinema and the immense possibilities it offers for visual storytelling was the driving spirit behind the venture," he said. After completing graduation in Physics from St Joseph's College, Devagiri, Calicut in 1985, Sanath went to the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, and studied Communication Design with a specialisation in animation.
"Even now our filmmakers are looking to Hollywood for inspiration thinking of making films the way they make, which is not good," said Sanath.
"Hollywood has a global market and they tell their own stories of war, destruction, violence, and the fear for life, which is also a product of the war-torn past," he pointed out.
"We should be able to tell our stories in our own way and persuade the West to see our films, ensuring a global standard in all aspects including marketing, technical perfection in areas of visual and sound effects, and better packaging; perhaps then we would be also able to go global."
Sanath is of the opinion that if we stress too much to squeeze the budget and spend less on the packaging, we are limiting ourselves to the challenges without looking up to overcoming the challenges in our own way.
"After all, there is no real tiger in 'Pulimurukan'. It is make-believe. We are manipulating the imagination of the audience creating an illusion there is a tiger. And if they believe it, we have won. If not we lose the money and effort. If you are a winner, nobody would ask you the question, how have you done it? If there is a will we can make it through our own available tools which will be our own success. At the same time, we should not insist on the West dancing to our tunes. It should happen as we did in the film 'Nattu Nattu', the Oscar award-winning song scene in the film RRR where westerners themselves danced to the tunes of local rhythm and music. We should practice more with our tools, polish our songs, and fine-tune our skills till we are confident that we should be able to make the West believe in our stories and visuals. It is high time our filmmakers fine-tuned and developed our craft for global exposure," he said.
On the approach of Indian cinema towards visual effects, Sanath is of the opinion that the industry here is yet to give its due to visual effects.
"We still consider it as a children’s affair as the impact of animation films of childhood days is still at large in our psyche," he said, adding, "but things are changing. Earlier when it came to visual effects the producers used to say there isn't a budget. But now with the success of films like Baubali, Pulimurukan, and many other films giving due respect to the art of visual effects, producers have started inquiring about the possibility of better visual effects in films which would in the long run make our films better with better impact, that too in the West," he said.
“By popular understanding, visual effects are used when the other crafts of filmmaking find it difficult or impossible to create a visual. With a background in traditional animation where we construct a narrative by drawing frame by frame, I see immense possibilities in modifying, fine-tuning or even creating elements and characters to make the visual narrative more compelling, making it resonate with the audience,” he added.
Sanath is happy that with his nomination to the committee, he would part of the Oscar awards selection process and he would be able to vote for the technical perfection of visual effects in the best films of the world.
"We should tell and sell our stories with the best impact to the West," he said.
On his emerging opportunities after being named in the committee, Sanath said though there are no financial elements involved, the passion for the profession is the spirit. “It is purely volunteering for the betterment of the industry and also improving our own skills brushing with global standards,” he said.
Now working on his own film projects, a few of them stories of Wayanad, Sanath divides his time between spending a few days in Hyderabad and working on his rural projects back home.
“After all I am still a farmer rooted in the soil,” he said jokingly on the decision to spend more time amid nature in his village.
“Whatever the cost, for me, there is no escape from it,” Sanath said, laughing at the trend of people spending huge sums of money for living a few days in Wayanad whereas the ‘sons of the soil’ fly off to distant lands spending rest of the time dreaming about returning home and living in pristine nature.
Sanath's parents, father P Gopalan Nair is a retired high school headmaster, and mother Sathyabaha P C a retired high school teacher. “Luckily for me, they were always supportive. Their confidence in me made me more responsible for whatever I do,” Sanath said.
His wife Saritha O T, former head of the Department of Environmental Studies at St Francis College, Hyderabad, has resigned now. She shifted back to Wayanad as she too is keen on farming and sustainable living. Sanath has two daughters - Niharika O T, studying Urban Design at CEPT University, Ahmedabad, and Geethika O T pursuing a course in animation film design at Chitkara University, Chandigarh.