A 5th Ghost Story Posted on April 14 2020
GHOST STORIES marked our third collaboration with Flying Unicorn Entertainment. We’d previously worked with FUE to design the title credits for Kaalakaandi (KK - written & directed by Akshat Verma) and Lust Stories (LS - Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar & Zoya Akhtar).
But Ghost Stories (GS) would prove to be one of the most challenging projects we’d ever undertaken.
For GS, we wanted to go beyond the minimal designs we’d created for KK and LS and craft something richer than our previous works... but what we didn't see coming was that the story itself would prove to be the most elusive component in the making of this title sequence.
As with our previous two collaborations, we had an open brief this time this time as well - which is such a rare opportunity in a commissioned project. And, unlike in LS, where we went from concept to final delivery in 13 days, we had about 5-6 weeks to create the titles for GS – there was enough room for us to be ambitious in the scale of our storytelling.
We knew early on that the Netflix logo could transform into the Ghost Stories logo
Our initial approach was to take inspiration from and incorporate elements from the four films, but at the same time, we wanted to create something new and unique with these inspirations…
With that goal in mind, our first concept was a fairytale-esque tale - it had a childless couple, a doting grandmother (who was actually an evil witch), a nurse (who has in cahoots with the grandmother), black magic that transformed the couple’s dead babies into cannibalistic beasts… and crows, the harbingers of doom.
We plotted out the storyline extensively and decided to push ourselves one step further. On all our previous projects, our extended team of animators/ visual designers would draw the storyboards based on our script. This time around, we drew the (stick-figure) storyboards ourselves.
However, on the night before we sent in our first concept to Ashi, we realized that it leaned heavily on one of the four films… and possibly even gave some of its secrets. No storyteller wants their story's surprises given away or even hinted at beforehand, and to our horror, that’s exactly what we’d ended up doing!
We were fully aware of what Ashi would say when she saw our concept pitch, so it didn’t come as a surprise when she shot it down without a second thought. By this point, more than the failed pitch, our concern was about time – we’d already spent a week to craft this concept, and now we had to start from scratch.
Our studio wall blackboard always comes in handy when we map out story beats
Since our first concept leaned so heavily on the elements from the four films, when we sat down to work on the second concept, our immediate instinct was to go in the opposite direction.
To that end, we decided to craft a completely original story that would have no connection with the other films. I guess we were also fantasising about the possibility of the titles becoming a fifth ghost story in the anthology, albeit an animated one. The idea of creating a wholly original ghost story was tremendously exciting and we plunged into the task eagerly… and three days later we had three new story ideas for the titles.
Needless to say, these were shot down as well.
The concepts we pitched had nothing to do with the four main films - we’d gone so far from the directors' films that the audience would be confused by the title sequence… and so we went back to the drawing board, a third time.
It had been 10 days since the project was green-lit… and each passing day without a locked concept meant one less day to design and animate the final film.
Opening storyboards for the Ghost Stories title sequence
We were driving down from Kottayam to Kochi when Ashi gave us the thumbs down for the three original ideas we’d pitched. Long drives have always been a special space for us – we’ve discussed many concepts, brainstormed and cracked story ideas inside the cocoon of our car… and this drive proved to be fortuitous for us!
As we were mulling over a completely new approach to the title sequence - it had to convey the 'ghost story' theme without revealing any secrets from the four films, and yet, reflect the films in some way too - Tina said: "What if all the characters in the films were dead, and they were all going on this long march of the dead…"
Tina’s visual of a procession of ghosts was sparked by GRR Martin’s remark about ‘his’ ideal ending of Game of Thrones - “No one will be alive by the last book. In fact, they all die in the fifth. The sixth book will just be a 1,000 page description of snow blowing across the graves…"
We didn’t have a clue about what the larger story would be… but something about this visual appealed to us and we immediately shared it with Ashi. To our surprise (and relief), she gave us the go ahead…
We went back to the films and looked at all the characters - the living and the dead, the various locations and elements - and over the next couple of days, we hammered away at this one-line-concept. The fleeting image of a procession of dead people put on flesh and blood, and evolved into a man on the run, traversing horrific landscapes in a frantic bid to escape the spectral beings that h(a)unt him…
The skeletal structure of the storyline that became the final title sequence
Cracking the story for Ghost Stories’ title sequence took us much longer than we anticipated and we’ll readily admit this: it was disappointing to see the first four concepts rejected one after the other.
It’s never easy to watch your ideas turn to dust. But the one thing we know is that it's always healthy to keep some distance from your story and be welcoming and accepting of feedback (however harsh it may be).
As editors and curators of the comics we publish, we know how valuable and critical good feedback is to the crafting of a story, and our collaboration with Ashi reinforced that belief - she made the right calls each time we pitched a concept, and more importantly, she did not lose faith in us through the entire process.
Ultimately, creating these 5 concepts for Ghost Stories was a very rewarding journey. Slowly, but steadily, we arrived a concept that everyone was excited about, on the personal front, we overcame our inhibitions and insecurities to draw our version of the storyboards.
And to top it all, the three stories we crafted in a span of three days was a huge confidence boost… and even though none of them made it to the final film, we're really excited about one of them and aim to make it into a comic this year!
Storyboards for the final act in the Ghost Stories title sequence
10 years with Dash, Bolt & Sox Posted on April 03 2020
Dash, Bolt & Sox - back when they were an inseparable trio
These pictures brings back so many memories of a time that never came back - when Dash (on the left, with Tina) and Sox (fawn coloured, lying on the floor and looking up) were still friends and played together. Back then, we didn’t have collars on them, or have to separate them all the time. For the past 8 years and more, they can't stand the presence of each other.
Growing up, I’ve always had dogs in my home, right from my 2nd class or so. Goofy, who ran away one day, Snooker - who never adjusted with us had to be given away, and Simba, who was my best friend… until the distances of engineering college, NID and then Bangalore slowly erased me until I was only a faint memory. I carried the pain of losing Simba for the longest time, knowing that I could have done better, to have reconnected with him whenever I came home for a few days…
After moving to Bangalore in 2006, I’d yearned to bring a dog home. For the longest time, I wanted to get a Lab, a big dog… until I met Phooey - my friend Sachin’s indie - who changed everything.
Dash came into my life on a July morning in 2010. A few months later, in September, I saw an infant Bolt on our street - he had dislocated his hips and dragging his rear legs behind him. I couldn’t bear that sight, so I took him in. Later that night, his sister Sox - who’d been picked up a few days back by a boy and his mother - was abandoned at that same spot, right in front of our house; so my brother Vivek and I took her in too. We thought we'd let them back on to the street when they'd grown a little, but they just stayed.
When Jasjyot stayed with us and drew the pages of Love Like A Sunset
I always knew that whoever came into my life as my partner would have to love dogs, and when Tina came home the first time, they just took to each other so peacefully, especially Dash who since then has always had a special place in her heart.
Back then, people were surprised when we tell them that we have three dogs (with Surumi, we have four now), all of whom we adopted.
Sometimes I wonder how it would have been if we didn’t bring them home, would they have been happier, roaming freely on the streets? Would our lives have been easier?
It’s a lot of responsibility, for starters, we’d have been able to pack our bags and just take off wherever we wanted to without thinking twice about it. Some of the things they do frustrate us to no end. Sometimes I get so angry with them too… but, there’s the flip side to all of this.
The joy, the tremendous, unimaginable joy I have when I see them when I come back from the studio or a walk, when I wish them good night, when we play together, when they come to us, demanding to be petted and talked to and loved… when they sleep in with Tina and me…
Our lives would have been so, so incomplete without them. Every single day is blessed with them in our lives, I know that they’ve helped me become a better person in many ways.
They’re my darlings and I can’t imagine a day without them in my life.
The three cinematic expressions of 405 Posted on March 16 2020
Since 405 came out a few years back, readers have been telling us how much this short silent comic has moved them. A fellow comic maker has told us how his elderly mother was moved by it; we’ve seen people who have never read comics in their adult life rediscover that a heartbreaking story can be told through just visuals; numerous art & design students have told us how 405 has inspired them to make their own comics, like Dony Jose's Friends with Rain.
If you have read 405, then you already know that Murali and Krithika had initially conceived of this story as a short film. The logistics and demands of an extensive outdoor shoot across multiple locations in Bangalore made it an impossible proposition (primarily from a budget standpoint)… but instead of giving up, they took the kernel of the idea that became 405 and crafted a completely new story out of it… the protagonist became an elderly woman who returns to her home after a long period of absence… and like her mirror-self in the book, she is also on a search, albeit of a different heartbreaking kind.
Shot over two days in a large old house in Malleswaram (Bangalore), with a two-member cast and crew of close friends (Tina & I were part of this motley gang), this film became the first (of three) cinematic expressions of 405, and was called THE VISITOR.
A few years later, in 2018, we received a mail from Riya, then a Communicative Studies student at Mount Carmel College in Bangalore. She and her classmates discovered 405, and loved it so much that they adapted it into a short film called AYAAL - which translates from Malayalam to “He” or “That man”.
Set in Kerala, their short film took the core idea of the book, added a backstory for the titular character (the protagonist from the book) and cheekily changed the numerical identity to 404.
Soon after we discovered Ayaal, Shanawaz Nellikunnil (a friend of our friends) wrote to us to acquire the rights to adapt 405 into a short film. Shanawaz planned to direct the adaptation and it would be shot by our friend Aslam (a cinematographer based in Bombay) who had also shot The Visitor – so none of us had any second thoughts about this official adaptation of the comic.
Shanawaz, his lead actor Danaanjay Talwade and Aslam took 405 and made it their own… their short film was true to the original comic and yet, it also stood apart as a different interpretation… and it was a little uncanny to see the story that we were so familiar with unfold through a different pair of eyes.
Shanawaz decided to retain the original title, and we absolutely love the animated interpretation of the 405 title in the film.
To our surprise and immense delight, the film was selected to the prestigious Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival (it was one of the 80 films selected from 9193 submissions from across the world).
While it didn’t garner any awards at the festival, it was heartening to hear stories of people in the audience asking well-thought-of, insightful questions about the film in the post-screening Q&A… and even days later, when they encountered the team on the streets or in coffee shops and restaurants in the small French town, after which the festival takes it’s name.
It’s been 7 years since Murali first told us the story of 405 and it remains one of our favourite stories ever.
We turned 6 today! Posted on February 14 2020
6 years ago, on this night, Tina, Siljith (one of our closest friends) and I were having dinner at our home in Bangalore. The topic of discussion was the name for the new company we were starting (after Manta Ray had to close operations in end Dec 2013). We’d tried out more than 50+ names by then and even shortlisted 5, but we weren’t really happy about any of them.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the word KOKAACHI sprung to my mind and I blurted it out. The Kokaachi is the monster our grandmothers (or mothers/ aunts) told us about when we were kids – a creature that came to catch little children who made a fuss about eating food. It was a scary monster from our childhood, the star attraction in the first story we remember being told.
Tina wasn’t sure at first; the evil, negative connotations of the childhood story worried her… and it would take another three weeks for her to warm up to the word and love it. In the meantime, we polled our close friends, brothers and families… and most of them loved the name. Rajiv (Eipe) told us he loved this more than any of the other options we had thought of, that the name came from our roots – his feedback was a huge eye-opener for us, ‘cos we hadn’t considered this at all. Another friend (I forget who) remarked that it sounded like the name of a Japanese gaming company; we took that as a positive sign, that Kokaachi had an international flavour.
But the most exciting element was the possibilities the name offered us. All the other names we had thought of were standalone English words or combinations, and none of them had the website urls we’d wanted. But when we typed “kokaachi” into the search bar, even Google didn’t know what it was. We immediately knew we had something special in our hands - the name offered us an infinite canvas to explore and imagine and create with – and we’ve had the good fortune of doing this with our friends and collaborators and their Kokaachis, and will continue to do so.
On the flip side, we’d anticipated (and faced in these past six years) snarky comments, smirks, jibes and jokes made at the expense of our name – at the post office, when we introduce ourselves to strangers, when people read the name on our masthead at book fairs, events or flea markets. But, the name immediately transforms into a conversation starter, people are curious about the name, why we chose this, and we love to tell this story about our origins. And we love how KOkaaCHI contains the name of our beloved, home city where we have made our base.
KOKAACHI wouldn’t exist today without the kindness and good will of so many, many people. From Prabha (Mallya) who designed our look + identity (and the various explorations which you see here), to all the storytellers, creators and illustrators who have worked, collaborated and published with us; from the clients who have commissioned us to bring their stories to life, to the mentors who have guided us; and our friends and family who have stood by our side, given us courage and supported us in more ways that we can count or ever repay – we are forever thankful to each and every one of them.
We have so many memories from these 6 years, and as we enter the 7th year of our life as Kokaachi, we excitedly look forward to the new ones that await us!
Perfect Sundays Posted on September 24 2019
(or) WHY WE LOVE KOCHI SO MUCH #1
Last Sunday was perfect - lazy, laid back and a lot of reading. It was just perfect.
"There is something about Sundays. It's a different feel..." Pratheek said.
We were having breakfast. "It's in our heads, I think", I replied.
Post-lunch, we had planned to go to Cherai beach, which is about 20 kilometers away from our place. Going there on Sundays used to be our sacred tradition, until the rains claimed the beach.
It'd been a few months since our last visit to the sea and we had been waiting to go.
And both of us love the waters more than any other landscape - we're Pisceans, after all!! :)
We reached Chilli Out - a cafe that looks over the beach (run by the wonderful Eddy and his team of chechis) - around 4:30 pm and the first thought we had was: " Why didn't we come here all these months?"
The sea was calm, the sound of the waves was music to our ears and the horizon looked ethereal.
We go to the beach to enjoy these sights. We never step into the water, swim or bathe.
We just sit on the shore and enjoy the beauty of slowness and stillness.
Jackie, the cafe's resident dog came to us and we said "Hello" to each other.
A crow came and sat on the pole outside the cafe.
A hawk (kite?) swooped down to the sea from high in the sky and caught a small fish in it's claws.
How did it see that tiny fish from such a great height, we marvelled!
But we could only wonder - who, but nature knows the answers to these puzzles?
And then, more kites (hawks?) started coming in from all directions. They circled above us... high in the sky. Pratheek counted 38 of them, all flying together, circling and swerving, afloat on unseen air currents. We looked up at this splendid sight, stunned, speechless.
As the hawks slowly flew away and the sky became clear, the sun started to go down.
Jackie came and sat near us, at his favourite spot and together we watched the most beautiful sunset we have ever seen.
A perfect orange globe suspended between a layer of golden clouds and horizon, like a painting, yet real. It dipped slowly, slowly into the water.
We couldn't blink, we sat there enthralled, enchanted.
As we drove back home, we mused over the way we confine ourselves indoors and keep staring at our glowing screens (like I do now), while nature creates such magic every moment!
How stupid we humans can be!
That night, Pratheek didn't wish me 'Good night' before going to sleep.
Instead he said " Do remind us to go to Cherai every Sunday from now on".
I smiled. Those words were more beautiful than wishing me a good night, I thought to myself.
Those words wished us perfect Sundays from now on... and forever.
Thank you, dear Universe.
Thank you for this perfect Sunday.
Making TIGER BABY smile Posted on August 14 2019
Last year, we got to design the title credits for the Netflix anthology film, Lust Stories.
One of the films in LS was by Zoya Akhtar, and soon after the film came out, she wrote to us... telling us that that she loved the credit sequence we’d created (yay!!) and that she wanted us to animate the logo for her new production house, Tiger Baby.
Needless to say, we jumped the chance to collaborate with her.
Zoya already had the logo designed, so we were coming on board to animate this logo and bring it to life. The scope of work was much smaller than anything we’d done before… but as we would soon discover, making a tigress smile was not going to be an easy task!
After we heard Zoya's brief, the first thing we did was translate it into a concept script:
The screen is dark. A doorbell rings. A circular door opens in the dark screen, and we see Tiger Baby, looking at us. She smiles and says, “Say Cheese!” and raises the camera to her eye, looking at us through it. Click and the flash bursts in bright white. The white halo of the flash fades away to reveal… the logo art with the Tiger Baby title. The diamond brooch sparkles and cut to black.
We always create animatics for any animation project we take up, and it was no different here. Once the script was approved, we did a pretty basic animatic, just to get an idea of the timing and actions of the character.
In our first take of the logo animation, we stayed close to the script but put in a scratch male (!) voice.
It didn't work, of course. In Zoya's own words, "The voice intonation was awful" - which it was!
It was really strange to hear a man's voice come from her mouth, and we can't remember whose bright idea it was to use to a male voice (we should have just looked harder for an apt female voice.)
Tiger Baby's voice is feminine and sexy... and Zoya had an artist in mind for this, but her dates never lined up for the recording. Finally, it was decided to drop the “Say Cheese!” completely from the animation.
(We have since wondered if Tiger Baby is the kind of tigress who quips, “Say Cheese!” Probably not.)
With the dialogue gone, the focus shifted to Tiger Baby’s smile.
The question was, how do you make a tigress smile and yet retain her regal demeanor?
We tried out a few different smiles, here’s one of the more smiley ones.
While Tiger Baby was trying out various smiles, we were fashioning arms & hands for her.
Would her arm have stripes, like a tigress? Or would it be a human arm?
What kind of hand would it be? What were her fingers like?
During our initial explorations, her arm carried the stripes.
But eventually it became a woman’s hand, without the black bands.
And then, we dropped the smiley face as well, and everything just... fell into place.
Looking back now, it’s quite wonderful to see how the character evolved from the initial brief: from a perky, cheerful tigress, she evolved into a graceful, stately empress.
TIGER BABY was finally ready to meet the world.
x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
5 years of Kokaachi Posted on July 29 2019
One night, while we were having dinner, Pratheek suggested the name KOKAACHI for the storytelling house we were planning to launch. Kokaachi is the name of the character from the first story we ever heard as kids, the imaginary monster who would come and catch naughty kids who refused to eat their food.
We loved the name and shared it with our friends and family and all of them loved Kokaachi. Some of them said that this name was apt as it came from our roots. Some noticed the 'Kochi' in Kokaachi. And a few even said that Kokaachi has a Japanese ring to it (Oh! We love Japan for Miyazaki and Murakami and Muji! :))
But our biggest surprise was when we searched for Kokaachi online. Mother goddess Google who knows everything above and below the sun didn't know what a Kokaachi was! Whoa! That just opened immense possibilities for us to imagine, interpret and visualise this spooky character from our childhood.
And so, we launched Kokaachi with a campaign called "30 days of Kokaachi". We collaborated with 30+ amazing artists and illustrators whom we loved, asking them to draw the Kokaachi of their imagination.
But that was 5 years back. Back then, this name, the stories we wanted to tell and the journey we wanted to make was just an idea, a BIG dream in our small hearts.
This year, as we complete 5 years of Kokaachi, we have once again collaborated with 30+ new artists to make a whole bunch of new kokaachis.
We are humbled by the love and affection you've shown us all these years. There have been moments of struggles, heart-breaks, self-doubt... we have even come to the verge of giving up this path of stories... but turned back each time.
We have come this far only because of ALL OF YOU.
A day at Vara! Posted on February 06 2016Jemma Jose was one of the 31 people who attended Vara! 02. She went on to create a comic about her experience at the event.
24HCDKochi - Photo Gallery Posted on October 07 2015Photos from the 24 Hour Comics Day 2015
24 Hour Comics Day at Studio Kokaachi Posted on October 06 2015
We did something scary and are proud of it. While it was fun to invite a diverse bunch of artist-storytellers over to our new studio to spend straight 24 hours making comics, we weren't sure how it will all turn out in the end. But we swallowed our self-doubt; having a bunch of interesting people to hang out with was great itself.
The event was splendid and a LOT of comics were made. Here our good friend and comics creator Roshan tells all about #24HCDkochi. Thanks, Rosh!
24 Hour Comics Day 2015 Posted on September 18 201524 Hour Comics Day falls on October 3 this year, and we're hosting the Kochi edition of this international event!
Though 24 Hour Comics Day has been celebrated for the past 10 years, this is probably the first time that Kochi is joining other cities across the world. And we're bringing together creators from different parts of the country - Kochi, Chennai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad - for this very first edition!
No Coincidences Posted on July 05 2015
After a long break, we're back to our first love, comics... and we wanted to glance back one last time, before we surge ahead into the unknown.
A few days ago, Tina and I were at our friend Esther's wedding reception and that got me thinking about our journey in comics from 2009 to where we are now. In many ways, it was Esther who sent us down a path that has brought us to where we are today, and looking back, it feels strange to see how the dots connect.
The short version: There are no coincidences.