For most creative souls at BYJU’S, the scope of learning and exploring transcends their designation. And this quest, says Sabu Sarasan – an animator-illustrator from the coastal town of Kollam, in Kerala – is integral to personal growth and development. “An artist needs to learn everything,” he says. “And since we are managing end-to-end, in-house production at BYJU’S, including chroma shoots, young artists have a lot to learn and explore here.”
Sabu, who has 17 years of experience in the industry, has dabbled in a bit of everything. He started his career with pre-production, and then moved on to animation and illustration, before making the switch to movie-making. Currently, the multi-talented artist heads the Storyboarding team with over 50 artists. Most of whom come with almost 15 years of experience and are responsible for visualising content from the script via animation and other visual elements.
“Creating a storyboard is key, it’s like the foundation of the house,” explains Sabu. “The storyboard artist needs to study the script, understand what the content is exactly asking for, and then they need to visualise, create characters, background, and other properties,” he adds.
And interestingly, this is where Sabu’s expertise also comes into play. Having worked extensively in various stages of the production business, he understands what it takes to spearhead multiple projects simultaneously. He knows, while his team might be handling a particular property, he needs to have an eye on each and every project – or as he says “have a 360-degree view of what my storyboard artists are working on.”
Like every good story, though, Sabu’s journey of finding his feet is also laced with certain highs and lows. The artist, who has worked on more than 50 comics, received a Comic Con India Award and been on the team of an Emmy-winning project, had a rather humble start in the industry.
“I was born in the Kollam district of Kerala. It’s a typical coastal town, surrounded by beaches and rivers,” he tells us. “However, in the late 90s, early 2000s, in a town like that, it was really rare for people to head to the city to study.”
“Luckily, the Raja Ravi Verma College of Fine Art was located close to my hometown, just a 40-km bus ride to Mavelikkara. And I was interested in taking up a course in fine arts there. Even though there were limited seats and I had to pass an admission test to join the institute, I was determined to give it a shot,” he adds.
In 1998, Sabu got a seat at the premier institute, established in 1915 by Rama Varma, son of celebrated Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma. Five years later, however, the Kollam native had moved on to chasing bigger dreams – this time, his creative leanings were taking him to the Heart Animation Academy, in Hyderabad.
“In 2003, when the opportunity came knocking at my door, my father asked me just one question – will this degree get you a job or not?” shares Sabu. “But I was determined. I left for Hyderabad with just Rs. 50,000 (the course fee) and without any knowledge of English, Hindi, or even Telugu. The only language I knew was that of sketching and expressing through art.”
Sabu landed his first stint as a 2D-animator-slash-pre-production-artist in 2004, at a studio in Hyderabad. The role marked the beginning of his career in animation, leading to more substantial work and interesting opportunities with leading names in the industry.
“I have tried my hands in various creative fields,” says the artist, “starting with 2D classical animations, pre-production, illustration of children’s books, and even movie-making.”
In fact, prior to taking over as the Senior Manager – Creative, in BYJU’S, Sabu was associated with one of the biggest publishers of graphic novels and comics in India. The man has also dabbled in the entrepreneurial life, with his venture Funnyfrog Studio Pvt Ltd, co-founded in 2014.
All these different experiences, reflects Sabu, have led him to where he is today, following his passion while continuing to create an impact through art. “Right now, I am not concentrating on just one role. In fact, I don’t want to stick to one thing,” says the BYJUite. “As an artist, I bring my expertise to the various stages of production. And my experience as an entrepreneur has taught me the art of managing a team of experienced artists or say, hiring a suitable candidate for a particular role. I would like to think of myself as a complete team player.”
It might have been a little more than a year of creating unique and engaging learning experiences for this BYJUite, but chat with him and you will know that he is already vested in his team and the growing BYJU’S family. Sabu speaks with an unmistakable passion when he talks about his storyboard team or even the scope for young artists at BYJU’S. And if his words are any indication, the only thing that should be held in high regard is the passion to explore and experiment.
“I don’t believe in the numbers,” says the man with close to two decades of experience. “The only thing that matters is what you have learnt. If in the last 17 years, I had only concentrated on animations or pre-production, I wouldn’t have been able to slip into so many different shoes.”
An artist needs to keep learning and reinventing their own craft, reasserts Sabu, driving home the one rule every BYJUite lives by – learning really should never stop!
After spending six years in newsrooms – of all shapes and sizes – Sutrishna is back to her one true love: storytelling. She strongly believes, stories have the power to inspire, encourage, and instill change. And if nothing else, bring people together through a sense of shared experiences. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Share a compelling story or just drop in a ‘hi’.
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