An inspiring extract from The boy who grew up, about Tapaas Chakravarti who followed his dream of starting an animation company.
As a small boy, Tapaas Chakravarti never had a set group of friends. His father was an employee with the Indian Railways and had to move town every couple of years. So Chakravarti did the next best thing. He created his own set of friends; he dreamed up characters and borrowed liberally from his collection of over 4,000 comic books. He had his own world — his very own Neverland. He played Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up.
Some thirty years on, Chakravarti is sitting in his office in Hyderabad’s Banjara Hills. He is surrounded by pictures and models of Mickey Mouse, Iron Man, Mowgli and Casper. He exclaims, “I’m living my dream!” The dreamer-turned-entrepreneur has created a business out of his heroes and fantasy worlds. His company, Hyderabad-based DQ Entertainment, is the largest animation company in India. With 3,500 employees, its shop floor is among the largest in the world.
Two years ago, DQE took a bigger step, one that was new for the Indian animation industry. Patents on many historic animation characters were expiring. Chakravarti saw the opportunity and started buying up. His first two buys were Jungle Book and Peter Pan. Chakravarti’s version of Mowgli and his wild friends is slated to hit global cartoon channels by the end of 2010.
Chakravarti’s Neverland dreams were initially cut off by practical hurdles. His father wanted the family’s brightest child to follow the tradition and join the civil services. But despite clearing the initial round of exams, Chakravarti left home to become a medical representative with Sandoz. A year later, he joined an MBA programme at Benaras Hindu University and sustained himself by teaching five tuition classes a day. In the next few years, Chakravarti cut his teeth in the corporate world at companies like Usha. But it was not until he met his future partner Rusi Brij, who was vice chairman and CEO of Hexaware Technologies, that the entrepreneur within him emerged. The two got together to set up Dataquest Management and Communications Ltd, a start-up consultant, in the early 90s and helped other budding entrepreneurs set up businesses.
While travelling around the world for his clients, Chakravarti noticed the revolution in children’s entertainment that was taking place in the Western markets. Broadcasters and studios were starting channels for children and there was a huge demand for content. Chakravarti finally saw the chance to make true his Neverland. He changed track and turned Dataquest into DQ Entertainment in 1999.
Production head Dudeja adds that training of the work force has already begun, keeping in mind the future needs. “For instance, in making the TV production of Peter Pan we have already started using the detailing that will be needed to make its theatrical version,” he says. To make sure that the movies don’t lack in quality story line, as seen in recent Indian theatre releases, the company has roped in writers in London and the voice recording is being done in France, says Saraogi.
DQE has also bought complete or part rights on Lassie the Dog, Charlie Chaplin, Iron Man and Feluda, the famous detective character created by Satyajit Ray. Chakravarti says that there are more in the pipeline and that each one of them will be brought on to the big screen.
Fortunately for Chakravarti and DQE, the global animation movie market, unlike its Indian cousin, has made hay in recent times. Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and How To Train Your Dragon have grossed over $3.5 billion collectively. The projections are sunny but Chakravarti’s Neverland is yet not complete. “Only when I take Jungle Book to the Broadway will I say that DQE has arrived,” he says.
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To check out the kind of work DQE does (2D, 3D and Flash), click here