I was on my way to Pune for a meeting. On the way, we stopped to pick up someone. He was an Indian in his 30s and had an American accent. He introduced himself as Sunil Thankamushy. He was a Keralite. Americans couldn’t pronounce his original name, he invented this name. His father was a scientist and a recipient of the President’s gold medal.
Sunil had graduated with physics but wanted to pursue something else. He used to contribute to the cartoon section of a daily when he was in college.
After college, he had applied for the animation programme at NID, Ahmedabad in 1991. Only three students were selected that year but it was only he who registered himself finally. So NID cancelled its animation course that year. Sunil opted for an animation course abroad.
He gained admission in the University of California, Los Angeles. After great effort, he managed to secure a scholarship too. His father wasn’t too pleased because he’d wanted him to pursue science. Animation was still not known of in India. But Sunil was hell-bent on studying in the US.
After a rigorous three-year course, he started work as an animator at DreamWorks Interactive, the newly launched games division of Steven Spielberg’s studio. Soon, he was promoted to the post of lead animator.
The highlight of his experiences was when Spielberg informed that he had just finished making Saving Private Ryan and he wanted to devise a game about honour and valour.
That’s how the most successful war game, Medal of honour, was created. After the game became a huge hit, Sunil worked on some more versions of the game in the capacity of lead animator. Soon, he quit his job to launch Spark Unlimited Inc.
Here he worked on Call of Duty: Finest Hour. I asked him how his father had reacted to his success. He smiled and told me that he was very proud of him.
I was struck by Sunil’s simplicity. When we stopped at Lonavla for breakfast, he told me that comics had been his only companions, even as a child. He would always be lost in the world of Batman, Superman and Spiderman. His family couldn’t afford video games. Ironically, a million kids around the world are playing with his creations now.
As we entered Pune, I wondered how fate always introduced me to incredible people. In this case, a boring trip had become memorable because of Sunil. He had pioneered gaming internationally and had done India proud. On my way back from Pune, I stopped at a bookstore and picked up a Batman comic for my son.
(The writer is a music composer)