Among the animators of Avatar 2 is a college dropout from Telangana’s Adilabad

Around two decades since his passion for animation first took root, Rajashekar is working as a VFX compositor at the Weta FX at Melbourne in Australia.
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Growing up in a small town in Telangana’s Adilabad, Rajashekar Bhupathi was curious to know how those colourful cartoons he used to watch as a child came to life on TV. The 10-year-old eventually found the answer through his uncle, Sai, who dabbled in interior designing. Sai, who used to create aesthetic designs on a computer, showed Shekar how images can be brought to life with different sets of tools. Almost immediately, a passion took root in Shekar. Around two decades later, this Telugu man is among the animators credited for one of the biggest visual spectacles that Hollywood has offered in recent times, James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water. The movie hit the theatres on December 16, 2022, raking in more than Rs 7,000 crore globally so far.

Rajashekar’s journey to this point wasn’t without its fair share of hurdles. While his heart was in animation, his family could only afford to send him for a regular degree course. “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,” he says.

Shekar eventually managed to learn the lighting and compositing techniques in animation, for free, from two working professionals in Hyderabad. He simultaneously did odd jobs to feed himself, and walked miles together to save a few pennies. “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 recalls. It was with the help of his uncle Sai that he connected with his two instructors.

Soon enough, he had acquired enough expertise in the craft to join a company, Discreet Arts, where he got his first salary of Rs 7,000 per month. Parallelly, he also finished his graduation and started levelling up on jobs. “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,” he says.

Rajashekar is now working as a VFX (visual effects) compositor at Weta FX in Melbourne. He says that constantly adapting to new tools, keeping oneself updated with the latest technology, and being able to apply creativity are the important qualities required to be in this field. 

Having studied in the Telugu medium his whole life, Rajashekar says English has been one of the main hurdles he has faced in the workspace. “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,” he says.

Rajashekar credits his long-time girlfriend turned wife, Prathibha, for his success. “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,” says Rajashekar, dedicating his success to his wife, who was with him through thick and thin.

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