Excitement and anticipation hung heavy in the air. The place seemed pretty busy as bright bouquets, beautiful big boxes and kits were being ferried through the festooned corridor which was flanked by youngsters in white T-Shirts with a message "I love Animation". As guests were trooping in, a vehicle screeched to a halt as a posse of security personnel in safari suits hurried through the corridor and into the hall with metal detectors and security paraphernalia, while the dog squad sniffed the venue safe. It was all happening. The host on the dais was on his phone awaiting some important information. Then came the much anticipated announcement as the crowd rose to attention.
Mr. Ponnala Lakshmaiah, Honourable Minister for IT & Communications, Government of Andhra Pradesh and Chief Guest for the day had arrived. Impeccably dressed in shining white with a Navy Blue Nehru jacket, the Chief Guest marched into the hall with his security personnel as he was greeted to a thunderous applause. He lit the lamp in the presence of Dilsukhnagar Arena CEO Mr. Raja Sekhar to initiate the celebrations.
Commencing his address with a heartfelt thanks to the Chief Guest, Guests of Honour, students, alumni, staff and parents Mr. Raja Sekhar, CEO of Dilsukhnagar Arena said: "It has been our tradition to celebrate excellence in digital media education every year since our inception in 1998. Over time, our Anniversary celebrations have come to be associated with not just brilliant entertainment but compelling enrichment and loads of inspiration too. From statesmen to industry veterans and academicians, several eminent personalities have graced our celebrations, added their inimitable charm to the proceedings and inspired our students. It is no wonder then that Dilsukhnagar Arena's Anniversary celebrations are a landmark event that the industry awaits anxiously every year. Being the industry leader, we have always been envied and emulated."
He offered his gratitude to the honourable minister for his personal initiative in introducing a new IT Policy focused on development of the digital media industry in AP. Commending Mr. Lakshmaiah, Minister for IT & Communications, Govt. of AP for his stellar role in facilitating "Game City", he said that the initiative was designed to attract significant investments from large Animation and VFX studios and will help generate better employment opportunities for career aspirants.
He assured the minister that, once "Game City" is open, Dilsukhnagar Arena with its world-class infrastructure and training standards is ready to meet the fresh demand for job-ready talent. Thanking the faculty for their instrumental role in helping Dilsukhnagar Arena achieve the highest industry placements, he wrapped up his speech with an encouraging word to the students: 'Now, there is only one direction for you: Up, up and up."
The Chief Guest Mr. Ponnala Laksmaiah was then invited to address the gathering. Connecting instantly with the young crowd, he recalled his school and college days, saying that he graduated from high school in 1963 and became a qualified Engineer precisely 45 years back. A gifted soul, he proved to be an extremely good conservationist, full of wit and spontaneity. Effortlessly shifting from English to Telugu and Hindi, he spoke with child-like enthusiasm, regaling the crowd with his trademark wit.
"I witness excitement, happiness and a sense of accomplishment in all your faces" he said, as the crowd soaked in the goodness. As with every professional speaker, his talent for getting the audience to participate was amply evident in the way he made himself accessible and engaging. He broke the ice by asking questions to the audience. "It's a Good evening in fact a Great Evening. Why is it so?" he questioned, as he awaited a response. Amidst score of replies, he offered: "It's a great evening because I see the future of India in all of you. As I reminisce my childhood days after interacting with you, I can return home today with a sense of true happiness." He had already won the audience. Moving on, and touching upon a development that was of immense importance to students, he said that the Government of Andhra Pradesh and his ministry in particular were taking several measures to promote the Digital Media Industry. He made a compelling case for India and specifically, Hyderabad as the ideal destination for a world-class Digital Media services.
His extraordinary commitment to furthering industry prospects and creating employment opportunities for the youth was fully evident as he demonstrated his complete command over the IT terrain with proven facts and tonnes of statistics related to the industry. Shifting to overdrive, he stated: "From several advantages including the largest talent pool (1 out of every 3 IT employees worldwide is an Indian), to the largest producer of films (Hyderabad topped the charts last years with 189 films) and many pioneering efforts (Digital Film making in India started at Hyderabad), the most affordable IT infrastructure (next only to Indonesia), Hyderabad has the potential to excel and become a global hub for Digital Media.
Today, with the IT sector accounting for the highest number of employees worldwide and one out of every three IT employees being an Indian, the acronym IT could well mean "Indian Talent." For instance, while the Animation business is valued at approx 80 billion dollars worldwide, India accounts for a miniscule 1% of this business. The same is the case with the Gaming industry which generates revenues of approx 100 million dollars annually while India contributes merely 1% to this business. In deep contrast, our workforce dominates with 33% being Indian talent. This difference need to be evened out by capturing a higher share of the business that justifies the strength of our talent.
Reason why, our Government has decided to promote the industry with a new IT policy implemented through Game City: a first-of-its-kind initiative in the country modeled on the lines of best of similar projects operating across the world in Manchester, Dubai and Netherlands. Our team has visited these destinations to gather critical inputs that would be utilized in planning Game City, which will be a 6 lakh Sft. infrastructure hub entailing a sizeable investment of Rs. 200 crores.
Game City will help in incubating ideas, promoting business and earning a higher share of the Digital Media business which is due to us. To ensure the success of the project, the Government is offering several incentives and tax concessions to encourage investors set up shop here. And that's not the end. We are also training people to be job-ready and employable by the time they come out of college through tie-ups with MNC employers such as Google, IBM, Microsoft etc."
Assuring students that regional turbulences are passing clouds which cannot impact the industry permanently, he said: "Work is going to destinations where the costs are competitive, which is why countries like China, Taiwan and Thailand are doing well. India and specifically Hyderabad being cost-competitive, this advantage will translate into thriving business for the industry and great job opportunities for all of you."
"Our mission is to create an environment of viable economic activity that will promote employment opportunities and I am happy to learn that Dilsukhnagar Arena has made Hyderabad and our whole country proud with its world-class training and achievements. Your academy has trained 16,000 students so far and holds the record for the highest placements with a consistent performance every year. As a politician committed to the prosperity of lives, I wish to see more people like Raja Sekhar promote skill development and employment in our state. I must congratulate him for building this formidable institution that has been dedicated to creating a bright future for the youngsters for the past 15 years."
Wrapping up, he thanked Raja Sekhar for inviting him to the celebrations. Incredible for his age, such was his liveliness and vigor that he prompted the question: Sir, what's the secret of your energy?, to which he had a ready reply: "I am young at heart. Spreading happiness and making people laugh ensures that the environment around me is always charged up, so I stay energetic and in high spirits always." A huge applause reverberated in the hall as the minister was escorted down the dais. It was certainly the most gripping speech, and it was also a welcome lesson on how to be a great public speaker.
Mr. Konda Vijay Kumar, Director of "Gundejaari Gallanthayyindey" a blockbuster Telugu film was invited as a Guest of Honour and he shared his industry experiences for the benefit of students. In response to a query from the audience, he shared valuable information and insights on the pre-production process of film making.
Mr. Praveen Kilaru from Rhythm and Hues, was another Guest of Honour and was invited to speak. He congratulated Dilsukhnagar Arena on completing 15 years of excellence and thanked Mr. Raja Sekhar for his generous contribution to the industry. He screened the showreel of R+H and a scene from the Oscar winning Film "Life of Pi" which featured VFX done by R+H. Demonstrating the making of the scene which had the Tiger and the protagonist on a boat, he revealed that the scene was shot in a large water tank and the effects were added to the scene later in the studio. He showed the difference between the real Tiger and the CG Tiger in split shots. Stating that a regular VFX-enabled film of this kind would have about 60% real Tiger and 40% CG Tiger, he said that "Life of Pi" had 80% CG Tiger and only 20% real Tiger which was an achievement not just for his studio but for Indian VFX as well. He went on to share that the film's director Ang Lee was so overwhelmed by the CG work done in India that he perosnally congratulated the entire team. He particularly congratulated the animator who created the CG Tiger saying "the shot in which the Tiger makes contact with the protagonist was so very convincing that people forgot it was a CG Tiger and were actually caught up with the emotion of the scene." Mr. Kilaru ended his presentation by thanking Mr. Raja Sekhar.
A proud parent, in gratitude to Dilsukhnagar Arena, praised the academy by reciting a Hindi poem with the leit motif: "In the world of Animation training, there can be none better than Dilsukhnagar Arena."
The prestigious Pixellence Awards instituted by Dilsukhnagar Arena to recognize and honour outstanding talent in Animation, VFX, Graphics and Web were presented to the winners by the Chief Guest and Guests of Honour in the presence of Mr. Raja Sekhar.
In between there was song, dance and rib-tickling skits which added energy to the celebrations. Students and staff of Dilsukhnagar Arena scorched the stage with some electrifying performances as the hall reverberated with high pitch hoots and whistles: the natural response of a crowd, true to its age.
As a token of appreciation, Mr. Raja Sekhar presented mementoes to the Chief Guest and Guest of Honour amidst thundering applause from the students who thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the day.