How Suresh Eriyat animated his dreams into realityAparajita Choudhury
Growing up in Tripunithura, a small town outside Kochi in Kerala, Suresh Eriyat discovered his artistic talents while still a student at Chinmaya Vidyala. The founder of 'STUDIO EEKSAURUS', an animation studio, Suresh was fortunate to have the unstinting support of his father and teachers who persuaded him to participate in multiple local and state-level painting and music competitions.
Suresh felt that while art was a great hobby, it was not a viable career option. So, he diverted his attention to preparing for the IIT-JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) papers. Fortunately, he continued to participate in competitions, and it was at one such event that he was lucky enough to meet someone who told about the famous National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad.
Despite family support, Suresh was not convinced and continued preparing for both the NID and IIT exams. Luckily, fate intervened.
I had attended the first day of the JEE for IIT. That very evening my family received news from NID that I had got through. I ditched the next day’s paper and spent one month with my parents and family before leaving home for Ahmedabad,” recalls Suresh.
He credits his parents for their support, when extended family doubted his decision, and thanks Chinmaya Vidyalaya, where he says he learnt to control his temper and emotions, and develop perseverance.
An animated endeavor
The year was 1998, and animation was still in its nascent state in the country. Suresh joined hands with Famous Studios in Mumbai to start an animation division that would create content based on Indian mythology and history. He remembers this period as a time of great learning in terms of getting grounded and understanding the business of ad filmmaking and animation. His first project at Famous Studios was creating the first episode of 'Legend of Sivaji', a tri-part series based on the life of Emperor Sivaji.
Unfortunately, 'Legend of Sivaji' failed because the broadcasters were not willing to pay more than Rs.70,000 for a half-hour episode. Sadly, Famous Studio shut down its animation division. But Suresh was determined not to accept defeat or let his team down. He negotiated with Famous Studios to give the animation studio a second chance. At the same time, unbeknownst to his team, he personally went to ad agencies in a bid to score a project for the team. Slowly, small projects started rolling in. But that was not enough for Suresh.
We pushed hard and convinced Channel V and MTV to give us films to create. We were creating really good content for peanuts.
What resulted from these associations are some the most unforgettable animation spots on TV. Everyone instantly recalls Channel V’s Simpu series and MTV’s Poga series.
Suresh then decided to ride the Claymation wave and gave us the memorable Amaron Battery and ICICI Chintamani campaigns. His team was also responsible for India’s first-ever animated music video ‘Bindu’.
The evolution of Eeksaurus
A decade after setting up the Famous House of Animation, Suresh and his wife Nilima Eriyat moved on to their next project – their own animation outfit 'STUDIO EEKSAURUS', in 2009, with the backing of Arun Roongta, owner of Famous Studios.
With a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Delhi, Nilima began her career in the animation industry with Ram Mohan Biographics in 1994 as an animator. Despite having no formal education in animation, it was her interest that drove her, and in 1998 she joined the Famous House of Animation.
Today, the 30-member team at Eeksaurus caters to a variety of media covering the digital, cinema, Web, TV, and mobile platforms.
“Our core strength is design and we apply design processes to create our products and byproducts. With Eeksaurus, we are always looking forward to producing unique innovations beyond animation and film making,” adds Suresh. In addition to live action ad films, they are also creating their own animated short films.
But it was not always smooth sailing. Eeksaurus’s initial capital of Rs 10 lakhs was fully absorbed into creating infrastructure and building the team. In fact, Suresh admits that he found it hard to pay employees their full month’s salary, or even the first month’s rent for the studio space. The machinery and software were an additional drain.
To further complicate matters, they were no longer associated with the Famous Studios brand. Luckily the initial projects that trickled in like Usha Janome, Yellowpages, Godrej Ezee, Google Tanjore, Usha Janome part 2 were a success.
Today, Eeksaurus has 50 clients, which include Honda, Cartoon Network, Samsung, ICICI, Britannia Nurtrichoice, Nestle, Dominos, Horlicks, Sony Pix Films, Google, Cadbury Gems, and Levis. Despite having completed more than 80 projects, Eeksaurus does not follow any fixed revenue model. However, Suresh says, they have a margin of 15-25 per cent of the entire cost of the project.
We keep a balance between business and creative excellence. If a project has no potential to creatively make a mark, we do not accept it, even if it comes from an agency that has given us maximum business in a year.
With a portfolio of over 350 ad films, and over 100 national and international awards, Suresh’s work has been recognised globally. He has been on the jury of the Clio awards, considered the Oscars of advertising, since 2007, and is also a part of many national and international juries. Having won his first-ever award at Annecy, France’s prestigious International Animation Film Festival in 2015, Suresh has taken Indian animation to a whole new level. His is also a member of the advisory panel to the Minister of Information and Broadcast.
Eeksaurus is planning to focus on creating original animated content in the form of short films, feature films and music videos, while creating differently styled live action ad films for brands, which he feels will serve as a gateway to commercial success. And while he is not looking to expand the team, he is looking to outsource production to other companies.
His message to the youth of India:
“Follow your dreams, no matter what complications you come across. If you are good at what you do and enjoy your work, there is no point being coerced to do something else. In today’s increasingly competitive market, it is important to make your work stand out from the rest, so constant innovation is the need of the hour. In a globalised world, where resources are increasingly depleting, sustainable solutions are of prime importance. One should not be concerned with immediate gains, but look at the larger picture. Short-term gains will do more damage to our world and result in long-term losses.”