Illustration: Roger Ebert’s “The Molecules of Titan”

Before he died, Roger began writing “The Molecules of Titan”, a story about space exploration set in part at his beloved University of Illinois. He never got a chance to finish it. In the spirit of Roger’s belief in crowd participation, RogerEbert.com is holding a contest to help complete the story.

I was offered the job of illustrating the story, which I readily and happily accepted, but I had just a day to work on it. I ended up with the two illustrations below.

The first is a fictional “Amazing Stories” cover, inspired by a line in Roger’s story and the kind of covers pulp magazines had in the late 20’s and early 30’s. The second illustration is one that attempts to capture the sense of wonder, mystery and simplicity associated with the story. In addition to Roger’s story, I kept in mind movies like “Close Encounters” and “Contact.”

To see 36 illustrations that I later worked on for “The Molecules of Titan,” check out this gallery.

Animation: Quick, 30-Second Experiments

Just to keep myself occupied this summer, I’ve been occasionally trying my hand(s) at animation. Both these clips are simply quick experiments–I had no idea what I wanted to end up with when I started, which is pretty evident. I was just having fun animating stuff.

The first is a stop-motion animation test. I spent exactly 35 minutes animating and about the same amount of time putting it all together. (Click here for more stop-motion.)

 

 

The second is a piece of 2-D animation. Now this one, I really had no idea what I was doing.  I began with some bizarre Pokemon-esque reptile and went to cell division and trees growing and all kinds of weird places. All in a day’s work.

 

 

I dunno. I hope to do something more substantial and meaningful this summer, but these were just fun.

Music: “A Visiting Cat” – an animated short film by Azra Sadr

 

This short film was thought up and animated by my immensely talented friend from college, Azra Sadr, whose work you can see more of here. The film tells the story of a lonely boy who befriends a cat that crosses his path. While the its company ends his loneliness for a while, the cat eventually leaves him. While initially disheartened, the boy comes to realize that life has more happiness to offer him.

My role in this project was simply associated with the original music, which I composed and arranged on FL Studio, using the VST Edirol. I tried, within the short running time, to create leitmotifs associated with characters and events, and avoided using sound effects by having the music do the job for me, much like the classical Disney shorts.

Film: My Homages to Ray Harryhausen (Age: 9 to 19)

A compilation of some of my attempts at stop-motion animation and other special effects, from when I was 9 to 19, inspired by the work of special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen, who died March 7th at 92.

While many filmmakers brought me into film, Harryhausen was the first to bring me behind the scenes. He has left us a great deal of inspiration, and will continue to have a profound influence on anyone who has the good fortune to come across his work.

This video accompanies an article I wrote for the Far-Flungers section of RogerEbert.com. In it, I write about Ray Harryhausen’s distinguished career, how it has influenced the film world and how it has made an impact on me and my life. I also write a little more about the clips in the video above.

Thank you, Roger.

For Roger BlogIt’s hard to put into words my feelings about Roger Ebert’s death right now. What can I say?

Roger Ebert was an extraordinary film critic, beyond a doubt. That, everybody knows. I admired his criticism from when I was very young because of the way he wrote TO the reader. It felt like a conversation of sorts. Besides that, he had such a wonderful, contagious passion for film.

I was thirteen or so when I stumbled across his writing, and I’ve been reading it ever since. It’s a good thing he has written so much; I have a lot more ground to cover. It’s also a good thing that all his writing is so inspired. How can someone write so much and make it all engaging? He was the only film critic I followed almost religiously.

But after I met him, I, surprisingly, admired the man more than the critic. What an awesome human being. He was so kind and caring, always listening, always watching. He knew he had the power to touch people’s lives, and he did so as often as he could, and with such humbleness.

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Over time, as we interacted, he became like a second father to me. Not many people understand this, but he was. With his infinite kindness and generosity, he changed my life in more ways than anyone will ever know. He was the only person who made me feel good about being myself.

I can’t organize my thoughts into elegant prose right now. The memories spill out of me in no particular order. I remember his soft hands, and how they felt when they held mine. I remember his eyes and how he smiled with them from behind his glasses, especially at Chaz, his brave, loving wife. I remember how he told my parents that I’d be alright outside of a conventional occupation. I remember how he wrote in my copy of one of his books, “The future is yours.” He was so encouraging. I remember how, in many long e-mail exchanges, he provided me with the most meaningful advice and encouragement I could’ve gotten. And how, in many short e-mail exchanges, he did the same. How he always replied, and never, it seemed, out of obligation. How he was never too busy to do so.

I remember how he played old songs for us from his laptop, tapping his hand to the beat. How he struggled to walk, but never let that stop him. How he typed slowly and yet wrote so frequently and zealously. How enthusiastic he was about his foreign correspondents, and how he, with us, created a kind of small family. I remember how his pants slipped down now and then, and how Chaz would pull them up for him. How warm he made me feel in person. How he stood up for the underdogs and championed the new and unknown. How he was so passionate. How he was so courageous. How he loved life and didn’t fear death. How hopeful he was.

I remember how he inspired without seeming to know it.
Within a few minutes of hearing about his death (my mother and sister woke me up with the news), I found myself crying in my room like I haven’t since my father’s unexpected death two years ago. As I write this, I feel some sort of hollowness; like my life is a little less special. The fact that my father’s death and Roger’s death have affected me in such similar ways only reaffirms how much Roger meant, and still means, to me. My father never got to tell me had faith in my abilities, but Roger reminded me he had that faith every day he could. I am so thankful for him. He has inspired me to live a better life.

He is, simply put, the greatest man I will ever know, and I’m not just saying that because he’s gone. I mean it with immense sincerity, and have known it for a long, long time.

I love you, Roger.

I made the image above for you. I planned on presenting something like it to you at Ebertfest as a thank-you for everything, but I hadn’t even started work on it when I heard you’d left. Now, finished, it’s my way of saying thank you in the best way I know how.

Book: “Follow That Crow!” (2012)

Prakash’s toy monkey, Moki, is taken from him by a crow. How far can Prakash go to rescue his only friend in the world?

A storybook I made for a project at college, the Storybook Lab. Our aim is to re-evaluate stereotypical notions of creating content for children who go to government and budget-private schools, and to design a collection of well-crafted storybooks that make the experience of reading enjoyable and meaningful.

The illustrations are pencil drawings which were scanned and then digitally colored.

For concept art, character designs, style experiments, et al, click here.

“It’s beautiful! Lovely story, and it looks great. Congratulations.”
          – Nina Paley, maker of “Sita Sings the Blues”

“This book is inspired. You are going places.”
          – Roger Ebert, Pulitzer Prize winning writer

Film: “A Conversation” (2012) (5 mins.)

A coming-of-age tale of boy sees girl.

Starring college mates, shot by a good friend of mine Najeeb Khalid, and directed and edited by me, the film was completed in under a week on a zero budget. Maitreya Mer plays a teenage boy who, while waiting for a bus, has “a conversation” with a girl on the other side of the road (Sandhya Visvanathan).

It’s a first for me in many ways: First script, first team effort, first non-fancy-visual-effects movie, first high definition film (shot with a Canon 60D).

The Appa Series (III)

The best photograph I have ever clicked must be the one I snapped just after scattering my father’s bones in a river in Kerala. I was struck by how white the bones were, even after being burned and what not. Even though I found the whole experience of the rite immensely sad, I also found it beautiful in ways I cannot fully explain. I had to capture that moment, and the only device I had on me was an old Nokia cell phone. Just as well.

Just yesterday, I chanced upon the photograph and, again, was taken with its poignancy.

Using just that photograph (superimposing its mirror image on itself, having multiple copies of it laid over each other at different angles, inverting and changing the colors, etc.), I created these images on Photoshop.

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