“How to Excel in India” my TEDx talk at IIT Kharagpur – TEDxIITkgp

How to EXCEL in India


About Srinivas Mohan
Visual Effects Supervisor and CEO of Indian Artists Computer Pvt. Ltd. www.indianartists.co.in Honors & Awards: 3 Indian National Film Awards (Indian Oscar) in 2010 for the film “Endhiran The Robot” in 2007 for the film “Sivaji The Boss” in 2001 for Stereoscopic film “Magic Magic” FICCI Frames 2011 – “Endhiran The Robot” IIFA awards in 2011 – “Endhiran The Robot” Star Screen Award in 2011- “Endhiran The Robot” Global Indian Film & TV Honor in 2011- “Endhiran The Robot” William & Mary Global Film Can Award- “Endhiran The Robot”

12 Responses to “How to Excel in India” my TEDx talk at IIT Kharagpur – TEDxIITkgp

  1. Since Audio has lot of disturbance, I’m posting the content text here.

    “How to Excel in India”
    “Endhiran The Robot”
    This Film has released with lot expectations, Huge box office hit, lot of appreciation and lot of questions:
    What was the budget? India’s most expensive, Oh! That’s why vfx are so good.
    How long did it take? 3 years, Oh! That’s why vfx are so good
    Hollywood technicians? Yes, Oh! That’s why vfx are so good
    So people are happy to hear all these answers and concluded “Oh! That’s why vfx are so good”
    But to me, all this happened because of the Great, deep, intense and disturbing DESIRE TO EXCEL.
    To me Robot is a case study of HOW TO EXCEL IN INDIA. And that’s what I want to share with you
    To me, the essence of excellence is FLAIR, CREDIBILITY, TOOLS, TEAMS, I will now share my views on each of these:
    FLAIR : Every child has some natural talent or the other. Examples: For sports or for singing or for visual arts etc..
    But, Parents force them to become an engineer or a doctor or whatever they dreamt off. So Children end up doing things that they do not like or enjoy. Then.. How can they excel in it????
    In my case, I lost my parents when I was young, there was nobody to tell me what to do, so I started doing whatever I felt. Like a FREE BIRD. I was first an electrician repairing motors, doing wiring for houses It’s not very challenging, so I quit.
    Then I entered electronics repairing Radios & TVs, that didn’t work out for me, so I quit. Then entered computer programming, liked it and kept doing it. Then I discovered computer graphics field, It was mindblowing! that’s it! And that’s what I want to do! So started working day & night exploring, learning, experimenting, happily failing not bothered about food or money, not bothered about career, no plan, no targets, no goals, just doing it simply because I loved doing it. so naturally, I became good at it and people hired me because I was good at it that’s how my career in Computer Graphics started, and even now, after 10 years, I’m still in it!
    So, the thing about Flair is: If you follow it, you will become good at it, because.. you enjoy doing it and then, you will become ambitious. When you become ambitious you will start thinking big and that’s when your problems start, because nobody will believe you in the real sense of believing.
    CREDIBILITY : Look at India we have great scientists, engineers, doctors, artists… but they get stuck here because nobody believes their dreams strongly enough. The moment they go outside they start achieving amazing results. In my case in the early days of my career I would talk with lot of excitement about achieving Hollywood quality results provided we do things in a certain way, but Directors, Cameramen and other technicians would hesitate, they would say, How can you do what other companies cannot? you don’t even have the kind of equipment that they have, they believed more in the equipment than me, so I realized that I had to be patient, I had to get their support, I had to make them believe in me, I had to build my CREDIBILITY. For that I learnt new technologies in Cinematography, I learnt Hollywood Film making processes, I learnt new digital formats just so that I could share something with these technicians, just so that I could impress them, then they started agreeing to some of my proposals. For the film Boys, I got a chance to do 1 shot according to my plan I delivered more than expectations. This caught Director Shankar’s attention because he himself has this kind of flair, ambition and desire for quality. Next, in the film Anniyan, I got 20 shots, again I have delivered more than expectations, next in the film Sivaji 200 shots, again I have delivered more than their expectations and in Robot, 2000 shots! and it seems we exceeded quality expectations again! This took 9 years and at a huge personal cost. for all the extra effort I was putting just to impress these decision makers, my back collapsed and my family life is not what you can call “normal”. So the thing about building Credibility in India is: You have to build it brick by brick, inch by inch, day by day. You have to do the small things well. You have to do so much extra just to get heard. And you have to keep delivering beyond expectations. Then some day you will meet someone who has your mindset. …..It’s crazy and …..stupid.., all this crazy effort and personal damage can be avoided simply by hearing out what the other person has to say. And simply considering that their ideas might be valid. Otherwise waste of ideas! People are going mad….wake up and, think! Because not everyone will be lucky like me to have such a supportive wife.
    So you see, without Credibility, I would not get the chance to do 2000 shots and without Flair I wouldn’t have done them well.
    The next essence of excellence is TOOLS.
    In India, you see two extreme tendencies with tools:
    First: “Totally ignore the importance of the right tool”.
    Example: you’ll see lots of people trying to open star-head screws with flat screwdrivers or they’ll use a knife, or some scrap metal, even hairpins! even sometimes professionals do this! they don’t mind if the screw is getting chewed up or even if the part itself breaks! The part can always be fixed with glue or tape or plaster! but they won’t make the effort of actually acquiring a star screwdriver.
    Second tendency for tools: “Totally depend on tools”.
    This, you see a lot in Indian VFX studios. They think that having all the latest hardware and all the latest software will automatically generate great output. Obviously, neither the first or second approach leads to excellence. My approach to tools in the film “Endhiran The Robot” was: Use the right tool for the job, even if I myself don’t know how to use it and if it doesn’t exist, build it. So, suddenly, options opened up. Now, I could consider Animatronics, even though I myself not an animatronics expert. I could consider “Light Stage Scanning(Paul debevec’s)” even though I had Never used it before. This automatically led to global collaborations because they are not available in India. I had even build an open-source software program for getting the look-and-feel of human skin right. This approach, also opened my mind to local collaborations i.e, to share work with other Indian visual effects studios, who we would normally consider as my Competitors. The big difference was, I was aiming at “excellence” and not simply “doing only what I know”.

    Tracing back, I could not have used Animatronics or Light Stage Scanning, if I had decided to use only the tools that I Know I couldn’t have gotten access to these tools if I had not built Credibility and I could not have built Credibility if I had not followed my Flair.

    Finally, the most important and most difficult component of Excellence is: TEAMS.
    In India, there are lots of Technologists, but hardly any Great Technological Leadership, there are lots of Doctors, but hardly any Great Medical Leadership there are lots of Artists, but hardly any Great Creative Leadership, It’s no different with Films or Visual Effects or everything else. Somehow somewhere, our politics, our schools, our universities…our society are producing a great number of Skilled Followers. We are not investing in Leading or Creative leaders, hence, most of our teams Excel only in following instructions. This was the most difficult part of my job in Robot, to get our various Indian teams including my own company, to deliver great quality output. The strategy I followed was: Give detailed briefs, follow-up actively, when everything else fails, do it myself. Frankly, I don’t think I succeeded fully with this. Because I realized that Indian teams don’t take briefs, they take instructions and it’s almost impossible to write out detailed instructions for 2000 VFX shots.During this experience, I also realized that Robot being a huge film for Indian VFX, actually excited very few Indian VFX artists because most Indian VFX artists prefer to do high-paying, but low-end labour oriented outsourced VFX jobs.
    And I’m yet to recover fully from this realization.

    My questions are:

    How can we be so short-sighted?
    What happens to local content if all the skilled artists are doing low-end outsourced jobs?
    How is this sustainable in the long-term?
    How can we make our own great films?

    Despite all these problems, I have, great hopes.
    Because, if a person like me, who dropped out of college, can be speaking at TEDx,
    we must, all be doing, something right!

  2. Comment by Krishna Swamy in his Facebook sharing.

    “A great article on Indian VFX scene. A must read for anyone in our CG Industry. Read the full article and store for a repeat reading experience. Its valid after 10 years too.”

    Thanks Krishna Swamy

  3. Comment by Kanishk Chouhan in Facebook

    Heyyy Sir
    Just wanted to tell that read ur speech at TEDxIITKgp about the Indian VFX Industry…
    I really liked it…. specially where you described how we totally depend on tools 🙂
    I have already read that speech 2 times nd saved it 🙂
    I just hope this helps people to realise what we are doing wrong….and what should be done…….

    Thanx for an awesome speech…
    Student 🙂

  4. Parag Gaikwad says:

    Congratulations Sir!!… Yeah India is excelling in VFX field , but still a long way to go… All the best for future project hope to see best of ur work!!

  5. Pingback: Fate of Indian animation industry?

  6. Can I have your permission to reproduce this article in Tamil in my website with due credits to you?

  7. I so much wish I could watch the video. Could not find it anywhere 😦
    Flair, Credibility, Tools and Team – Classic article!
    & Congratulations on the award!

  8. Eswar says:

    Srinivas garu,

    you deserve a lot than a national award. your TED talk inspires a lot. some of them can remember this for a while and few of them may definitely remind your speech on the same TED dias……..thanks for your inspiring speech.

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