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Bollywood's 3D avatar

Priyanka Joshi  |  Mumbai 

Bollywood is finally waking up to the magic of visual special effects. Priyanka Joshi finds out more on why 2011 promises to be a ‘spectacular’ year for Hindi cinema, designed to make your eyes pop out.

Shah Rukh Khan’s home production Ra.One (which means Random Access - Version 1), a science-fiction superhero film, has reportedly postponed its release due to extensive post-production work. The film’s plot is a closely-guarded secret and what little is known comes from Khan’s twitter feeds. The actor-producer tweeted about the film’s action sequence “huge blue screen...100 cars.... cranes wires... gawd I am making a film beyond my means. Will be dancing on the streets to pay for all this. (sic)” Initially slated for release in June 2011, it is speculated that the film will now hit the screens in the second half of 2011 because the computer-generated effects will take time. Anubhav Sinha, Ra.One’s director, tweeted recently: “The VFX team and I are still figuring when we can deliver the film. Then, my friends, the producer (Khan) will announce the date. But soon now...”

This could well be the shape of things to come. Bollywood directors and production houses are waking up to the possibility of visual special effects, simply called VFX, and smart computer graphics that can be done at affordable costs within India. “We are the back-office specialists; where else can one accomplish high end graphic detailing at half the costs,” says PVR Pictures president Kamal Gianchandani. The production house wants to make a 3D film. Gianchandani claims: “We will launch the project by 2012. It is at the script stage but we can produce quality computer-generated imagery , and there is an audience for it.”

3D seems to have become the buzzword for filmmakers. Vikram Bhatt’s upcoming movie, Haunted, is apparently India’s first stereoscopic 3D film. Bhatt, who also scripted the film, got 3D technicians and support staff from Canada. Some extensive special effects have been achieved by Chennai-based Efx Prasad Studios. Bhatt admits he wanted to make another film in the horror genre, but wasn’t enthused by existing techniques. “What excited me was the 3D aspect. Haunted is like what Avatar was in terms of look and feel. It is not converted from 2D to 3D, like many of the films will be in 2011, but actually shot using 3D cameras,” he says.

Shirish Kunder, better known as Farah Khan’s husband, has confirmed on Twitter that he is also working on a 3D film. Kunder tweeted: “Yes, we are making Joker in 3D.” Krayon Pictures and India’s ace animation artist, Vijay Raut, are also expected to make 3D stereoscopic film based on Dronacharya’s son Ashwatthama called Ashwatthama’s Revenge. Prime Focus, which has worked on films like Guzaarish, Raavan, My Name is Khan and Blue and has contributed to Hollywood movies like Avatar and Twilight Saga 1 & 2, is finishing its work on Patiala House, which will be released in the first half of 2011. Merzin Tavaria, co-founder, Prime Focus is reluctant to divulge names of films it is working on, but Tavaria says about Patiala House, “We were approached to make the film look and feel right.”

Irrespective of film budgets, it is now an accepted fact that films will use visual effects and graphics to package the frames slickly. “Post-production work now involves a fair amount of computer graphics and technical wizardry to create the effect the director may have in mind,” says Gianchandani. Typically, a VFX studio can charge anywhere between Rs 5 lakh and a few crores, depending on the nature of the work and the number of frames they work on.

Big-budget films like the Rs 150-crore Robot (Endhiran) dedicated over 25 per cent of the money on VFX, which helped narrate the film to the audience. Robot boasts of a mammoth 2,000 VFX shots in 40 scenes. But even low-budget films like Tere Bin Laden effectively used help from Mumbai-based Pixion Studios to create visual effects that enhanced its frames. A total of 150 shots were done by Pixion for the film. Pixion executives say a sequence where various roosters had to come on stage and give their respective cries was the most complicated to shoot. When shooting with live roosters turned to be something of a disaster, the VFX studio decided to create the roosters in 3D matching the real rooster in the same sequence. The studio created 10 roosters which looked different from one another, complete with feathers. In another sequence, the film needed to show a real aircraft landing on the runway. “It would be very difficult for the production team in such a case to get the required permissions to shoot on a runway where an aircraft would land. Pixion created an aircraft in 3D, and to make the shot look believable, it added smoke on touchdown,” explains Pixion’s head of VFX, Viral Thakkar.

EyeQube, the special effects company set up by Eros International two years ago, proved its mettle in 2010 with movies like Alladin and Salman Khan-starrer Veer, and is now engaged with films like Ra.One and Desi Boyz, scheduled for a 2012 release. Mumbai-based animation house Illusion Interactive is all set to release its first animated feature, Ashoka - The Hero, in January 2011. The film will be distributed by PVR Pictures’ Springboard Films and has been shot in 2D with a some parts in computer-generated imagery.

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First Published: Sat, January 01 2011. 00:26 IST
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