The desi quotient in Star Wars

The desi quotient in Star Wars

A still from 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'.

Star Wars has been many a kids' first introduction to science fiction, though technically it's a space opera. Many have been mesmerised by the lightsaber fights and the grand spaceship battles, while many others have been moved by some of the series' philosophical elements. Regardless, the franchise has woven itself into the heart of pop culture and is treated as a religion.

Now, as the 'Skywalker saga' comes to a close with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, DH spoke to two such people, who, inspired by their love for Star Wars, went on to join careers that resulted in them working in Star Wars. The cycle truly is complete here.

Harsh Agarwal and Reetul Tyagi were quite young when they were exposed to Star Wars. While Harsh had his first exposure through the films, Reetul's first experience was through toys, as the films came to India much later.

One thing they agree on is how the films have their own unique charm. Harsh believes the new films, made under Disney's label, carry the same charm that the films made under George Lucas have, despite the many changes and advancements in technology over time.

Reetul, for his part, fueled by his love for the behind-the-scenes of the films, wishes he could go jump into the time when George Lucas was working on Star Wars, a time when the director had to work frame-by-frame because computers weren't that advanced back then. He also believes that the new trilogy, through its use of practical effects and puppets, carry an an element of nostalgia.

On the question of what inspired them to be where they are now, Harsh had a slightly more technical answer than Reetul, saying that he believes that VFX is a marriage of art and science and he, as a person who paints and likes to dabble in technology, gravitated towards his field of work and eventually fell in love with what he does. Reetul had a more personal thought on it, though. "I used to watch a lot of cartoons religiously. After my graduation, I was looking for a career and my friend in Pune led me to this institute called MAAC. He said it offered a six-month course, but I ended up doing a two-year course because I liked it so much and thought I'd make this my career", he says, adding that his break came with Prime Focus, from where he moved to various studios and finally ended up in Industrial Light & Magic, one of the holy grail of visual effects studios and a creation of George Lucas himself.

As for what their roles entail, Harsh and Reetul obviously had different answers as their roles differ greatly. Harsh, as a lookdev artist, said he is responsible for turning concept art into presentable 3D models - something he compares to using a blank canvas to paint on. Reetul, who is a compositor, says his department is the last place any film goes to in a studio. His job entails compiling various effects elements and making it appear realistic - this can include putting together lighting and texture work to removing green screens. From there, he says, the shots go out for colur grading and other finer details.

Neither of them are particularly aware of the story beyond what they get to work on. They can, however, thankfully go to the theater unaware about how the film proceeds. Harsh does say that he gets a direction of where his shots and sequences are going, but it doesn't dictate what he is working on.

Talking about their experience of working on a Star Wars for the first time in their careers, both had distinct feelings about it. While Harsh spoke of how the film differed from a film like Coco, where he had to keep in mind the differences in the visual styles of the films he'd previously worked on to produce the best work he can, Reetul was quite simply ecstatic about working at ILM, saying "When you're at ILM and you're working on a Star Wars, you're on cloud nine".

When asked about where they felt the Indian VFX industry was, both carried an air of hope, saying that the industry had improved greatly over the years. While Harsh said that there's a lot of potential for growth 'particularly for aesthetics', Reetul said that the industry is constrained by a budget and time crunch, but India can create a Star Wars if they are removed.

 

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