Rajashekar Bhupathi, who grew up in Adilabad, Telangana, was fascinated by how the colourful cartoons he watched as a child came to life on television. The 10-year-old eventually discovered the answer thanks to his uncle, Sai, who specialized in interior design. Sai, who used a computer to make appealing designs, demonstrated to Shekar how various tools could bring images to life. Shekar developed a strong desire almost immediately.
Around two decades later, the same Telugu man is one of the animators credited with one of Hollywood’s most spectacular visual spectacles in recent memory, James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water. The film was released in theatres on December 16, 2022, and has already grossed over Rs 7,000 crore internationally.
Rajashekar’s path to this point was with difficulties. His family could only afford to send him to a conventional degree course while his heart was in animation.
He says, “I had informed my family that I wanted to learn animation courses after my intermediate. But the fees for those courses were around Rs 2-3 lakh, and they did not have that kind of money. So instead, they got me to join a degree course. But I was not interested in that, so I dropped out without finishing the course and came to Hyderabad in my final year, hoping to figure out a way to learn animation.”
Rajashekar eventually learned animation lighting and compositing methods for free from two working professionals in Hyderabad. He worked many odd jobs to sustain himself while walking for several kilometres to save money.
Rajashekar told reporters, “I was taking separate classes from them in accordance with their free time, and they used to stay at opposite corners of the city. In the mornings, I used to travel to Krishnanagar to study lighting, and in the evenings, I went to Manikonda to learn compositing.” He met his two instructors thanks to the assistance of his uncle Sai.
He soon gained enough expertise in the technique to join Discreet Arts, where he earned his first pay of Rs 7,000 per month. He says, “I worked in animation/cartoon movies initially before slowly shifting to other companies that focus on feature films. I have been fortunate to work in movies such as Aquaman, Cats, and other prominent projects while I was at the MPC company. I later got the opportunity to work abroad at Weta FX, for which I flew to Australia in 2022. It is one of the top companies here, and it was working on James Cameron’s Avatar 2. This is my dream-come-true project. I consider this as one of the best decisions I have ever made.”
Rajashekar is now a VFX (visual effects) compositor at Weta FX in Melbourne. He believes that continually adjusting to new tools, staying up to date on the latest technology, and using creativity are crucial skills to have in the industry.
Rajashekar, who has studied in Telugu his entire life, says English has been one of the most difficult challenges he has faced in the workplace. He says, “I am not fluent in English, so this is my biggest challenge right now. In India, there was an alternative of Hindi at least. After coming to Australia, it is only English everywhere. But I guess I have become better now.”
Rajashekar attributes his achievement to his long-term girlfriend turned wife, Prathibha. He says, “Though animation was my passion, I would not have taken it seriously if not for the motivation to get settled in life, for the sake of marrying Prathibha. I would not have pushed myself to come this far. I always wanted to give her a better life, so I thought I could do that with what I am good at.”