Dressed to thrill
Akshay Churi, India’s representative at the coveted Crown Championships to be held in Chicago, talks about cosplay and how he puts great effort into becoming the character in his performances
After wowing everyone at the Maruti Suzuki Arena Indian Championship of Cosplay 2019, the winner Akshay Churi will soon be on his way to Chicago to represent India at the annually-held Crown Championships of Cosplay. He will be competing against champions from countries like USA, Australia, China, France, Austria, Singapore and Indonesia for the Quest for the Crown. The global champion will win a cash prize of $5,000. But before we send him off with lots of love and luck, we find out how he got into cosplay and how he has equipped himself to bring home the world championship.
Churi is a CGI (Computer-generated Imagery) generalist by profession, and a cosplayer by passion. "It’s quite a challenge to manage work and cosplay in my industry. But it’s all about finding the perfect balance. I usually work on my costumes on the weekends for around eight hours and take out a couple of hours on weekdays too," he says.
Cosplay has become an integral part of Churi’s life. He believes that it is an art that involves perfecting the look as well as putting in the act to imitate his favourite fictional characters. "As the word ‘cosplay’ suggests, it involves ‘costume’ and ‘play’. Personally I feel incomplete if Im not performing as the character. Although my priority is perfecting the look and proportions, I also take utmost care to research the background of the character and act the part. It defines your costume and also makes you look cool," he shares.
Taking us back to his debut as a cosplayer, Churi says, "My very first cosplay was Batman from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. I presented it at Bangalore Comic Con India in 2014. A lot of things went over my head for my first cosplay. Though I had very little experience, I was fortunate to have the help of a few friends. I was nervous at the convention as I was grabbing eyeballs. But I also received a lot of compliments for my costume which made me feel at ease. By the end of the convention, it was an overwhelming experience and it made me come back with cosplay every year."
Churi cosplayed as Jim Raynor to win the national finals. "The previous year, I cosplayed as mobile suit MSN-06S Sinanju from the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn. It was the first time I was making such a big costume and a lot of trial and error was involved. This time around, I wanted to put to use the things I learnt from the past year and make a very wearer-friendly yet mobile costume. Jim Raynor popped into my head. I’ve always liked the marines from StarCraft. Raynor’s backstory and his road to glory was very appealing to me. I am also a huge fan for mecha and armour. All these things led me to finalise on the character and bring it to life," he recalls.
Raynor is a major protagonist in the science fiction real-time strategy video games StarCraft and Brood War, and is a player character in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. Outside video games, the predominant fictional character also appears in the novels such as Liberty’s Crusade and Queen of Blades, and his backstory is explored in the novels Heaven’s Devils and Devil’s Due. Robert Clotworthy voices the character in all video game appearances.
As complicated as it was, how long did it take for Churi to put the costume and the whole look together? "It took me 30 days to get the costume ready. Everything about the costume has been built from scratch. I started by making a 3D model of the costume in Autodesk Maya. It was based on images of the figurine. Then it was imported into another program called Pakura to make templates and after that it was transfered to eva foam for the actual build. The basic structure is built with eva foam and I used PVC pipes for its internal structure. The stilts in the costume are made with CPVC pipes, and wood and foam is used for the external shape. Bicycle tyre tubes were used to recreate the wire and tube effect. The helmet is made up of acrylic sheet, which is blow formed to form a dome. All other tiny details are either cut out of foam, MDF wood or sunboard. The costume is hand painted using acrylic and oil paints. Led strips and acrylic are used for the lighting effects," describes Churi.
After so much effort being put into making a costume and even more practice to bring the character to life, Churi’s win was well-deserved. But he has another elaborate plan for the upcoming world championship. "For the final round of the crown championships I will be cosplaying as a character from a popular video game franchise called Monster Hunter. It’s called the Zinogre God based on a S H Figuarts action figure. I do plan to go all in. It’s an international stage and I’ve got to do well for myself and for the cosplay community back here in India," he says.