Sometimes you have to follow your dreams no matter what your family or society tells you – here’s how Saurabh Maurya carved his way into the industry
The Crafty Apes CG supervisor discusses why allowing yourself to fail is a good thing
i‘m sure a lot of us will relate to this but throughout my entire childhood everyone around me, my family, my relatives, my friends’ families, their relatives, even my friend’s dog had a plan for me. A mantra to lead a happy successful life, ‘Excel in Academics, get a decent job’. As simple as it sounds it had many hidden layers – excel meant you can only come first in all exams, there is no option of coming second and a decent job means either an engineer or a doctor. in india everyone thinks if you choose a profession other than a doctor or an engineer you’ll end up being homeless or even worse.
My brother chose to become a doctor so i was left with the only other alternative. now i don’t have anything against engineering but i hated every second of it. There was no way to justify these emotions because people would label you as dumb and a failure. And as clichéd as it sounds, if you don’t love something that you do then failure is inevitable. i failed in my very first year of engineering and that one moment of failure turned out to be the biggest turning point of my life.
There is this beautiful quote that i stumbled upon, “i’m not what i think i am, i’m not what you think i am. i am what i think you think i am.”
i realised that this path that my parents, my friends, the society was carving for me, i didn’t feel like it was for me. That failure took away all the inhibitions and i was constantly looking for a different path. Iron Man was released around that time and it blew my mind. i had this curiosity built up inside me and i wanted to be on that path to pursue film-making. The last time i felt this curious was almost a decade ago when i saw The Matrix and at that time the idea of pursuing film-making was as bad as being a terrorist. i was scared to bring up the idea again to my parents so i let curiosity be the guide which introduced me to photoshop, and from photoshop to After Effects to Maya to a new world of animation. i gave into my curious gut and decided to convince my parents that i wanted to drop out of engineering and pursue animation. it took me three years and a lot of courage to finally convince them and hesitantly so, they gave in. i knew that animation was an uncharted territory for them and they were concerned so it was important for me that they understand my decision. However my parents were not the only ones that needed convincing. We live in a prying society where i was constantly being told, ‘Your father is an engineer, your mother is a doctor, even your brother is a doctor, why are you taking up arts? You don’t like studying’, ‘You will have a miserable future and will be poor and homeless’ to things like ‘Your parents will have to give dowry for you’. This list is endless and it started making me insecure, and i started questioning my decision. But i was clinging to that one moment of failure in engineering, which ironically enough gave me the courage to take the leap of faith and go to San Francisco to pursue animation at Academy of Art University. i learned this the very hard way that you cannot make everyone happy. it sure was a bumpy ride but i was glad that i took up this chance. i was also told that art students never get visas/ sponsorship. And there came a day close to my graduation where i got a job offer but the visa did not come through. For a moment i started thinking i was wrong. But this entire journey from dropping out of engineering to animation was one of the most fantastic learning experiences for me, and i am not just talking about the skills that i learnt but the resilience that i had built up. i made some great friends and mentors throughout this journey who have been and are still my biggest support system. i knew i was doing all the right things, giving 100 per cent, converting the interview to a job offer but the visa is not in my hand.
Being an international student there will always be extra layers of hassle. i decided to work on something that is within my approach. So instead of working on a new Hollywood blockbuster movie before i graduated i was working on a student thesis short film. Little did i know but this student thesis short film (Soar) went ahead and won a Student oscar in 2015. Yet again this failure of me not getting a visa actually turned out to be a game-changing moment. i realised that i had changed my focus on getting a visa rather than why i came here in the first place. i went back to my curiosity, embraced the randomness and pursued my passion and figured the visa will fall in place. Four years in this industry and having worked on a little over 30 films/tv shows and here we are. i am glad that i took the leap of faith, i am glad that i failed because now, “i’m what i think i am”.