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Face of the future

Have you ever imagined your favourite Hollywood celebrities or movie characters as guests at an Indian wedding or as historical figures? If not, here’s a sneak peek into the world of AI-generated images that can make it happen

Face of the future

AI creations by Divyansh Soni

Varun Das

Mukesh Ambani, whose last name is synonymous with wealth in India, cuts a destitute figure, as he poses for a photo in an oversized t-shirt streaked with dirt and a pair of trousers. Former US President Donald Trump appears slovenly in a shabby tank top in marked contrast to his usual dapper suit-and-tie look. Mercurial billionaire and X addict-cum-owner Elon Musk looks too hard up to even afford a phone as he poses in a soiled t-shirt in the middle of a slum. These viral AI-generated images created by Mumbai-based artist Gokul Pillai, depicting Musk, Ambani and others as penniless Joes, are among the many images that kicked up a storm on social media platforms this year.

AI creations by Manoj Omre

Unless you have been living under a rock, you must have stumbled upon some AI-generated images reimagining your favourite Hollywood celebrities or movie characters as guests at an Indian wedding or as historical figures. “People love fantasies. The human race has always loved dreaming,” opines Manoj More, 30, a designer and animator based in Mumbai.

“I don’t think some AI software alone can deliver… You need to have the core skills required in the creative industry. And, importantly, you should have the taste and aesthetics to stand out,” believes More, who uses tools like Midjourney, Dall-E and Stable Diffusion.

Earlier this year, Omre left Potterheads in splits when he created images depicting Harry Potter characters like Hermione Granger, Snape, Hagrid and You-Know-Who, among others, as Sabyasachi models. Ask him what prompted him to do so, and pat comes his reply, “It is one of my favourite movie series. I grew up on it and always wondered why there was no Indian version of it! I know we usually ruin the classics, but we still want to see and imagine.”

The first series Omre created was on Van Gogh in which he showed the artist living the life that he ‘deserved’.

Familiar figures

“Images reimagining public figures or famous characters get a lot of traction because they tap into our shared fascination with familiar figures. Seeing those figures in a different light sparks our curiosity,” feels 22-year-old Divyansh Soni, a BTech (CSE) graduate and freelance AI artist.

“It also demonstrates the ability of AI to create visually striking content. Besides, such images carry a layer of social or cultural commentary, which adds depth to the creative endeavour and prompts a conversation,” he points out.

Soni follows other AI artists, like Pillai and Prateek Arora. He says he draws his inspiration from regular tidings, TV shows and movies. He shares, “My creative journey revolves around crafting sci-fi, horror and futuristic visuals rooted in Indian culture. My work caters to Indo-futurism enthusiasts and those who enjoy different possibilities with AI.” He once gave the Bollywood film Gangs of Wasseypur a sci-fi twist! More recently, he created images showing world leaders here for the G20 summit enjoying their stay in India. Biden is seen enjoying street food at Chandni Chowk, while Canadian premier Justin Trudeau looks the part in Indian attire as he explores Jama Masjid. Even Vladimir Putin could be seen posing for a photo with a group of Delhi University students.

Fantasy zone

Climate activist Greta Thunberg and notorious edgelord Andrew Tate might not see eye-to-eye in the real world, but they could be seen posing together like tourist buddies in an image from a Friendship Day series created by Arambagh-based visual artist Sahid SK. While the war between Russia and Ukraine rages on in the real world, in another image, one can at least see Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Zelenskyy, beaming from ear-to-ear like long-lost childhood friends, as if they had buried the hatchet.

“I have always advocated for peace,” says Sahid, who also draws from the wellspring of fantasies and parallel universes, when asked what drove him to create those images. “In future, significant changes and innovations in the field of AI will be seen,” he says.

Flip side

While images reimagining public figures and characters have caught our fancy, they have also renewed concerns about the possible misuse of the technology. Just before Donald Trump was about to be arrested earlier this year, some AI-generated images of the former Commander-in-Chief being tackled by some armed-to-the-teeth cops caused a stir on social media. Another case in point is that of Pope Francis, who could be seen donning a puffer jacket in a fake image that made waves on the Internet. The wrestlers’ protest came under a cloud when a morphed image of grapplers Vinesh and Sangeeta Phogat victoriously grinning upon being detained by the Delhi police started doing the rounds on social networking sites. The technology is not only being used for harmless fun and entertainment, but also to peddle false narratives and misinformation.

In this day and age, when most attention-deficit social media users don’t deign to zero in on the details of an image, concerns persist about AI blurring the ever-thinning line between real and fake.

#Donald Trump #Mukesh Ambani

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