Modern Mughals: In conversation with Rudu Studio
Meet Aadya Raj and Serena Dhillon, roommates-turned-founders of RUDU Studio who have always wanted to make work that kid versions of themselves would look at and go “Wow that’s hilarious, I need to meet whoever made that!”.
In this feature we follow their journey from studying together at NID to starting their own venture, as well as go behind the curtains of their comical series ‘Just Mughal Things’.
In the world of “Just Mughal Things”, a series crafted by Rudu Studio, this eccentric trio navigates the challenges of modern technology transported back to the Mughal Period.
Coming from completely different backgrounds, Aadya and Serena met while pursuing their Bachelors in Animation Film Design. Assigned as roommates, they developed a shared interest towards obscure J-dramas and other Japanese content. But it was not until their Graduation Project that they began collaborating and created the cartoon show ‘Roommating’ a comical portrayal of the lives of two girls who lived together and had wacky adventures daily.
A series of short videos for the cricket team Punjab Kings during IPL 2023 created by Rudu Studio
“It was kind of like Cartoon Network’s Regular Show, but completely its own thing. The two main characters were loosely based on us and a few of our friends”.
After completing their graduation, they interned together at Studio Eeksaurus and landed their first job at Disney India. After two years of working as producers in Disney India on shows like Oye Golu and Simple Samosa, the pair decided to start their own practice – RUDU Studio
Oye Golu is an Indian children's animated television series aired by Disney Channel. The story revolves around Adi, an ordinary boy with an unusual friend in the form of Golu, a genie who grants his wishes.
We both saw eye to eye on the idea that we just wanted to make something fun, sweet, and enjoyable – Something that you watch and get just the feeling of “haha that was fun!” We both saw eye to eye on the idea that: as a creator, your primary audience is YOU.
“We would just refer to each other as RUDU. So, when the time came to give a legal name to this studio we’ve decided to start, we couldn’t come up with anything else that we felt like we could identify with”
Rudu Studio undertook a project for a Metal Band, delving into darker themes for a storyline centered around a serial killer.
Aadya and Serena, like many animators who breathe life into the lifeless, infused their studio with character through a mascot— RUDU.
We simply made her a girl we’d like to hang out with. The character is female since both the founders are female. There is a painful lack of satisfactory non male characters in the Indian Animation Scene. We hope we can contribute to changing that!
To the duo, Rudu Studio is like an adventure; working with varied briefs and clientele to explore the scope of animation along with lots of writing, planning, re-planning, and scribbling.
The most important thing – which we feel has to exist while creating novel content – is the PLAY aspect of it. The freedom to come up with the randomest things. Where the phrase “there is no such thing as a bad idea” actually applies.
This very idea was what brought about their collaboration with Sameer Nair at Applause Entertainment. Sameer’s brief was simple: “It has to be funny, and everyone should be able to enjoy it”.
After pitching a couple of concepts ‘Just Mughal Things’ was what resonated greatly with Sameer and his team.
Juxtaposing modern day problems and technology in an old time-y setting was just undeniably funny to everyone!
A lot of work and collaboration went in with the team at Applause; a lot of writing before anything was drawn. Collaborating with Brijesh Muliya, Arjun Mogre, and Vignesh Menon, they shared and refined ideas, conscientiously navigating the animation process from initial writing to animatics and final animations.
The first slide of Rudu Studio’s pitch to introduce Just Mughal Things (JMT) to the team at Applause Entertainment.
“We were working online for feedback, script narrations, etc. We spend most of the time on perfecting the animatic – complete with scratch voice etc, because for something like this the dialogue and comedic timing is most important.”
The team at Applause were enthusiastic about every part of the animation process. Whether it was watching the Animatics or reading scripts, or even coming up with funny jokes.
“They even wanted to voice characters! We would randomly receive texts from the team about joke ideas – it was very encouraging to see how excited they were.”
I think anyone who’s watched JMT can feel that energy of play and pure fun that has gone in from everyone involved. This project has easily been our favorite to work on so far
Talking about the design aspect of the series Aadya and Serena said, “The minimal animation style was a design choice – to keep it quick to produce, keep the perspective skewed to match Mughlai Art and Paintings, and making sure the character’s eyes do a lot of work.”
At the core of the series are Badshah Bin-Taj, the ruler of a modest province who harbors aspirations of dominating the entire Sultanate, the snarky princess Mallika, whose life is poised to be traded in marriage for political treaties, and Mirza Bakr Bakr, the one indulging in plenty of BAKAR BAKAR. Together, they bring humor and joy to the narrative.
Suggestive pic of Badshah Bin-Taj with sword. iykyk.
The world doesn’t make it very tough to find ridiculous things, honestly. You wake up every morning and sometimes you wonder if we’re living in some sort of twisted comedy show.
With generations of people unironically identified with a letter and their fight for the “cooler generation” dividing the internet, we watch Mirza and his gang of COOL KIDS - whose only goal in life is to be cool and relevant.
They have a line that goes “Cool Banne Ke Liye Kuchh Bhi”, which is pretty much what everything feels like when you go on Instagram.
“The father struggles with understanding his kids – and the kids don’t get their dad – We think this eternal generational gap will never close and is always going to be hilarious and endearing.”
Infused with sassy dialogues like "Mere bacche mujhe abbu jaan bulate hai, par tum mujhe pukaaro DADDY", and cheeky references like an artist having his arms chopped off after creating a masterpiece, JMT revives the playful comedic violence reminiscent of our childhood cartoons.
In our past experience, when people internally get worried about stuff like this – it usually ends up getting taken out. It was so nice to have the Applause team say ‘KEEP IT IN THERE, IT’S FUNNY!’
As audiences engage with content such as BoJack Horseman, Rick and Morty, and contemporary anime series featuring plots at par with live-action dramas, Aadya and Serena are optimistic about the broader acceptance of animation across diverse age demographics.
“There’s so much to be done in the space of Animation for young adults, and even for adults in India.” says Aadya and Serena,” The goal of our studio is to explore. Within the purview of animation there is so much to created – whether it be the use of 3D software like Unreal Engine, or even everyone’s favorite hot topic – AI”.
An Ad Campaign animated for the brand CRED done by Rudu Studio in collaboration with Bakarmax
The duo is working on a Signature Film for Animela and are also actively engaged in the process of writing and pitching new ideas for animation projects.
Anytime we’re finding it hard we tell each other - It’s fun because it’s like you’re Frodo and Sam – and if any of the stories are to be believed – THE JOURNEY IS THE BEST PART. And so, we’re enjoying the journey of trying to figure out how to do the things we want to do.
Stills from a few projects done in Unreal Engine by Rudu Studio
It was lovely to talk with budding animators Aadya Raj and Serena Dhillon and their adventures with Rudu Studios. We thank them for their time and wish them the very best for the future!
You can reach out to Rudu Studio on the links below:
Aadya Raj and Serena Dhillon