Mani Shankar is a Bollywood film director, holographic technology expert, writer and speaker.
He is best known for being the architect of the World’s first holographic political campaign that he designed for Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Gujarat Legislative Assembly election, 2012 and It set a Guinness World record. He has conducted election campaigns for various parties including the Telangana Rashtra Samithi which eventually lead to their victory, as well as the National Congress Party.
As a Bollywood Director he made 5 films including 16 December which was one of the highest grossing films in the year of release and Tango Charlie which was screened in several International Film Festivals and is a permanent part of the UN’s films on Anti-war. Apart from these 2 films, Rudraksh (starring Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Basu, Suniel Shetty and Isha Kopikar) was a futuristic supernatural film, Mukhbir (starring Om Puri, Suniel Shetty, Samir Dattani and Raima Sen) was the story of a young man rising above the dangerous underworld and choosing to die a patriot and Knock Out (starring Sanjay Dutt, Irfan khan and Kangana Ranaut) was also critically acclaimed and screened at the Black International festival in Berlin. Over his long career, Mani Shankar has also worked on more than 1500 Ad- Films, award winning shorts films as well as campaigns for political leaders. In 1991, his Telugu film, Manishi won him the coveted Golden Nandi award for Best Film, as well as Nandi Awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay writer.
In February 2017 Mani Shankar launched the first live Augmented Reality political campaign in the world for Shri Devendra Fadnavis, the honourable Chief Minister of Maharashtra State in India and for the first time it enabled a electoral candidate to enter people’s homes and softly pitch for votes and the campaign was declared a success.
Mani Shankar helped introduce holograms to India and Indian elections. Nobody in the World has the kind of experience in handling holograms for politics like he does. A series of Life Size AR projects followed in fields ranging from Film publicity, Sports, Spirituality and Corporate launches. Spiritual Guru Swami Ganapathy Sachidananda, former Cricket Captain Kapil Dev, Actor Rana Dagubbati star of the blockbuster movie Bahubali are some of the top celebrities who have appeared as AR for various promotional and communication purposes. Celebrities like Madonna, Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Richard Branson, Al Gore, David Beckham, Prince Charles and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia have used 3D technology before to reach large audiences in multiple locations but Narendra Modi was the first person to adopt a new era of holographic 3D projection technology use in India where he appears from thin air and addresses the large number of audience.
How do you describe 3d mapping?
3D Projection Mapping is been around for few years. Projection map- ping has been used for entertainment purpose, usually done on buildings like making the building or collapsing it, theatrical stages and on indoor objects. This kind of stuff is standard. Of course there lot of people who have done creative work with mapping but this kind of mapping on 3D statue surfaces was never done before.
Recently the former deputy Prime Minister L.K Advani inaugurated the 3d mapping projection of hanuman statue in Mysuru. Could you please elaborate?
The 3D mapping of Hanuman Chalisa on the 45-feet tall Karya Siddhi Hanuman Statue Hanuman Statue using a 4K projector at Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Ashram in Mysuru was one of its special kind. We had done something interesting to 3D mapping by contouring the map in 3-Dimensional manner against a gigantic statue and have made the statue come to life in so many different ways. We made people forget that there was a mapping in the first place. So the illusion of a statue coming to life was for some reason never done before. Specially when its for a religious icon like Lord Hanuman, you view the statue just not as the statue and when all the images come across then you tend to view the statue as the image of divinity itself creating a deep impact making it look very interesting. The worship played through state-of-the-art technology included Abhisheka, Deepalankara, Tulsi and Swarabhishekam for eight minutes.
There was storytelling of few instances from the Ramayana. Creative compelling illusion on a gigantic 45- feet Hanuman, we created a 5-feet Hanuman climbing up a forest, so we had to create a forest on the statue. The images and the stories together took people’s imagination away and held them spell bound. The video went viral, since then there are a lot of interests across the world from various people looking at huge mapping projects which tend to change the way we look at God and worship itself. What I believe is that technology is dumb, it cannot change life but when you breathe in life into the technology it becomes creative and interesting.
How challenging is it to project the 3d Mapping on complex structure compared to that of simple wall projection?
It is a complicated process. To do a laser mapping of the entire statue we had to understand the statue on a pixel by pixel basis and we used 4K resolution picture, the highest of the projection and each pixel measures to about 2mm. So we had to understand the statue by millimeter by square millimeter on every contour of it in depth x width x height in XYZ axis. Then we created a 3-Dimensional model of the statue on millimeter accurate model. Then we had to decide where to place the projector and from the projector perspective we created this on the system and map this model on to the statue. It is a situation where we map the statue on to the statue.
The 3-Dimensional map which is internal system is now super imposed on the statue and is checked for pixel accuracy. So if the nose is slightly different or the lip is slightly twisted we will see a small second layer and this second layer is corrected. It is like creating your face then make a mask for the face and put that on the face. Every little contour of face, the mask made has to fit perfectly. This is how we get the control over the statue. So that’s the secret of how you do a mapping on the contoured statue. Having said that it is more difficult than what I explained. It is not an easy task. It took about 4 months to study and complete this project.
Since you are the only film director in India who is well versed in technology as well as film making, do you find similar comparison in both fields and How?
Yes, there is similarity in both Technology & Film making. Technology is a small part of the whole thing. The Important thing is to understand how are you going to mesmerise the audience in both the fields. You need to understand who is your audience and what are they used to seeing. Here in technology also we have class and mass audience as we have in films. Basically Class audience always look for depth and inner meaning of the film and mass audience focuses on the Hero and how he carries the movie on his shoulder and I used the same concept in technology as well. I differentiated the content, spirituality, religion, ritualistic, understanding the meaning of lyrics from technology point of view and then be able to merge all of these.
For example there is a powerful poem of Lord Hanuman which is called the Hanuman Chalisa written by Tulsi- das about 500 years back. In Hanuman Chalisa there is ‘artha’ (meaning) and Thulasi Das embedded a second meaning in some of the versus called the ‘Rahasya Artha’ (secret meaning). In the opening verse of Hanuman Chal- isa, Tulsidas says “Shri Guru Charan Saroj Raj Nij mane mukure sudhar”that means “after cleansing the mirror of my mind with the pollen dust of Holy Guru’s Lotus feet” whereas the ‘Rahasya Artha’ is “God is an emotion built in your heart drenched in the feeling of extraordinary love, devotion, spirituality and unity of the whole world and God”. For this we visualised a saffron coloured milk pouring from the head and drenching Lord Hanuman’s Statue all the way till the feet with the 3D mapping technology while the Hanuman Chalisa audio is being played at the background simultaneously. We have done this kind detailing only in few versus.
We also worked on the sound track for this project, the music was done by the Music Director Sanjay Wandrekar who has worked for many Bollywood movies like Masti, PK, 3 Idiots etc. Usually for Lord Hanuman, most of the times the song is sung by male voice. We thought why not try giving a female voice as well. The shruthi (Pitch) in the song was by female voice and the laya (Rhythm) was by the male voice. We created the mix of melody and Indian form of Rap which became so successful.
Article / Interview by Ms Nithya Ramesh, Bureau Chief – Fashion & Entertainment