Behind the scenes

A look at how our projects came to life.

Fantastical Plants of the Western Ghats

The idea behind this project was to inspire an interest in plants, by showcasing the most peculiar and the most familiar from the Western Ghats.

  • Our team set off in search of species that would challenge our most basic conceptions of what plants are—for instance that they are green, or that they flower every spring.
  • Botanical artist Nirupa Rao created the illustrations used in the book.
  • Suniti Rao, who co-wrote the book with Nirupa, is a brand director by day who specialises in making complex information digestible.
  • Siddarth Machado is a botanical researcher, who, with great care, selected the species featured in this book, not unlike a parent asked to pick favourites amongst his brood.
  • Prasenjeet Yadav is a science and conservation photographer, who artfully documented most of our species for the website.

Spirit of the Forest

Follow our film festival journey and the making of Spirit of the Forest on our Instagram and Facebook.

In the Field

  • Ecologist/PhD researcher Priya Ranganathan and wetland ecologist Shivona Bhojwani compiled the research that forms the bedrock of our film. The articles they wrote were also used to create the exhibit for this website.
  • Back in July 2017, Nirupa visited Myristica Swamps in Karnataka along with her cousin Siddarth Machado (a botanist) and her friend Prasenjeet Yadav (a photographer), while working on the book Hidden Kingdom: Fantastical Plants of the Western Ghats.
  • Prasenjeet’s photos were used as references for Nirupa’s paintings in the book, and can be seen in Exhibit 01: Fantastical Plants of the Western Ghats.
  • In 2021, we visited another swamp, while beginning work on this project (L–R: ecologist Priti Bangal, illustrator Nirupa Rao, musician Abhi Tambe, botanist Navendu Page).
  • Nirupa sketched plants on-site, while Navendu helped her identify and depict various species accurately. While portraying a habitat such as a swamp, it is important to note details like which flood-adapted species grow close to the water, and which grow near the swamp edges, merging with the surrounding evergreen forests.
  • Navendu kneeling before a Kanara nutmeg tree—its roots form a (pretty uncomfortable) carpet beneath.
  • Abhi stands before a mammoth Lophopetalum tree while recording sounds from the swamp. These recordings were used to compose the film’s soundscape.
  • This sprawling Magnificent Myristica was the inspiration behind the main tree in the film.
  • The majestic Sharavathi River inspired the hornbill’s view in the film.

Making the Film

  • Scriptwriter Nandini Rao based her story off the work done by our team of research ecologists. Her objective was to create distinct, relatable characters and weave facts into a journey that audiences could emotionally identify with, while serving the project’s educational purpose. 
  • Animator Kalp Sanghvi created sketches and model sheets for the little girl and boy’s character development. We wanted the girl to look adventurous and wide-eyed, but also a little bit cheeky. She is dressed like a typical South Indian school girl, hair braided with red ribbons and feet clad in rubber chappals. The boy is quieter and more cautious than his free-spirited sister, and can do little to stop her from exploring the sacred grove.
  • Artist Nirupa Rao hand-painted the film’s backgrounds with watercolours, inspired by her travels in the region.
  • Nirupa’s botanical illustrations were based on identifiable species from the swamps, and drawn from sketches made in the field.
  • A team of animators, led by Kalp and Isha Mangalmurti, layered traditional 2D animation on top of these backgrounds, maintaining an organic and hand-made style.
  • Our star cast, recording their voice overs. (Row 1) English: Kirtana Kumar, Aviendha Asati, Vihaan Varior. (Row 2) Kannada: Poshith Gowda BR, Lekha Naidu, Saakshi Gururaj.
  • Composer Abhi Tambe’s score brought together the veena (played by Vidushi Geetha Navale), percussion (Joe Panicker), bass guitar (Kaushik Kumar), Indian flute (Arjun MPN), ngoni (Abhi Tambe) and vocals (Samhita Nagraj).