“Let me just give you an example of how dedicated I am to my pet project,” says Kiran Bhakta Joshi, 55, whose brainchild ‘Yeti’ will become the first Hollywood animated film envisioned and masterminded in the belly of his company, Incessant Rain: Nepal’s one of the biggest and most elaborate animation agency. And then he goes on to take his neatly tugged shirt off, pushing his left arm forward to show the entire ball of his shoulder covered with the tattoo of the eponymous character. To any Tom, Dick, or Harry, finding an ape-like animated creature etched on the skin of this middle-aged man might elicit a ‘So what?’, but once they get to know how an abominable snowman now makes abode in his body, nothing but admiration remains.
In 1981, when computers were still alien to the Western world, a 19 year old Nepali boy set his foot in the Unites States of America, eyeing the golden ticket of computer science that would take him to a world that was not even thought to materialize yet. This was the year that International Business Machine Corp. had started distributing its very first personal computer. Obviously, submerging into the depths of computer science without knowing its prospects would have been suicidal, but not for that Nepali boy Kiran Bhakta Joshi, who remembers those days from 35 years ago as though they happened yesterday, “It was more interesting to me than challenging. I found a thread that I could hang on to, and employing my technical knowledge to art gave me the edge that I needed to become an animator.”
For the next 10 years, Joshi honed his skills in graphic designs and computer generated imagery. Back then, hand-drawn images were in trend. As his life settled in the U.S., he kept his roots in check. He says, “I might have been spending good years of my life in America, but the person I was, was still defined by my life spent in my own country.”
After getting enrolled in Disney, Joshi started working on “Beauty and the Beast” (1991), and within three years time, he was working on “ ” (1992) and “Lion King” (1994), two highly acclaimed projects from Disney. His dedication, vision, skills in teamwork, and edgy artistic style soon landed him the responsibility of CGI supervisor for “Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996). Soon enough, he was taking this responsibility further with “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” (2001).
Joshi illustrates his life during the turn of the century, “My life was going good. I had not even thought of coming back to Nepal, let alone working here, but a tragic event in my family made me stay back in Kathmandu for a while. I had little or no idea that there could be youngsters in Nepal who were not only inclined to animation, but resilient, diligent, and talented too. I was awestruck. Some wires were making the right connections. I was now thinking in a very different way. There was an untapped market here in Nepal, and it felt as though it was waiting for my christening.”
His soul was stirring, his head was itching, and his heart was giving him a call. Every bone in his body wanted him to establish an animation company in Nepal. He contemplated. He waited. His wandering thoughts drifted his path away from America for longer than expected. People were ripping him apart. Some would motivate him, his family would say otherwise. But, he contemplated. It was the overbearing winter of 2007. It was raining incessantly, relentlessly. It felt as though the weather, too, was waiting for his answer.
Then, one fine day, a young artist named Anish truly inspired Joshi to drag his history back to Nepal. Before leaving for the U.S. to bid it adieu for good, he told 25 young artists to wait for his return and truly begin animation in Nepal through his company, Incessant Rain.
Incessant Rain began its operation in January 2008, and within two years time, an entire VFX crew was up and ready in the company. The country was shredded into pieces by the decade long People’s War, and interminable line of strikes marking the calendar red was not an easy go for Joshi. One step was taking him forward, two steps were checking him back.
He remembers, “First was the group that I had. They were young, they lacked determination. Even parents saw this profession as a mere hobby. Then, there were strikes every other day or so, and then the load shedding issues. Fourth in the line was discipline and professionalism. I sometimes used to wonder whether I justified my role of an administrator in Nepal by quitting becoming an artist in the U.S.A. But, 140 of my employees today beg to differ. I am first an artist, then a mentor, and then only an administrator,” he beams.
In eight years time, Incessant Rain has not only grown by volume, but expanded into one of the most exemplary private companies currently running in Nepal. Before getting hired, young animators and artists train in a special room merely to get acquainted with the culture that Joshi has bestowed upon his company.
Animation chambers are separated, and artists specializing from VFX to compositing, from rigging to modeling, from laying out to lighting, from ‘skinning’ to texturing—all have their respective work station. Joshi elucidates, “Animation is not about modeling or designing a character to tell a story, it is about making the audience ‘believe’ that the character is telling a story.”
Incessant Rain currently hosts to American banners like Dreamworks, NBC, Disney, Universal, and others. While more than 80% of works are projects from the U.S., Joshi also provides services to some U.K. companies, Japanese companies, and a few from Nepal, also.
Recently, Incessant Rain completed a project for the British Red Cross marking the Nepal Earthquake 2015. He says that the April quake did not come as a surprise to him, “We completed the project in January 15 of the same year, and in three months time, the biggest earthquake of this century hit. We simulated how the Dharahara would fall if a mega quake hit. It happened exactly the way we predicted.”
Joshi is currently working on a rehabilitation program for victimized children from Barpark, the epicenter of the 2015 earthquake. This program showcases live action and VFX fusion, which in turn will educate the world at large about risks, and subsequently casualties, of a calamity.
While Joshi’s stride is in constant escalation, he says that there is still a void in his chest. “I love our culture, and I love animation, but it keeps knocking my head when I think that I have not been able to blend them together. That’s why I am now doing a project titled Yeti. The entire world sees the abominable snowman as folklore that has little or no story to it, but we come from the country where legends of the Yeti are retold over the years. It’s my higher calling. I am doing a US$70 million project called ‘Yeti’.”
Yeti will be an entirely CGI animation film. Everything from the strand of each hair on Yeti’s back to the flakes of snow, and from bright blue sky to the flailing garments, will be worked upon by Nepali artists. An entire nation of animation will come out of a studio located at Chhauni, Kathmandu, Nepal.
That small nation of animation will make its presence felt across the globe, and it will be the first animated film from Nepal showcased to the entire world.