Over the last decade, VFX (visual effects) has played an increasingly prominent role in Bollywood films. And, in the current normal that we are all living in, we will probably see filmmakers leaning more towards VFX to bring the desired impact in their movies.
In keeping with safety norms, filmmakers are chalking out ways to involve fewer people on the sets of a film, thus opening more doors for VFX teams to play a bigger role in the narrative, especially when it comes to sequences involving outdoor locations, elaborate dance numbers, action scenes and large crowds. In a recent chat with BT, filmmaker R Balki said, “I think VFX technology will play a huge role in our cinema now. It’s going to explode in this country like it never has before. So, I think newer ways of designing things in our films… in fact, technology is going to play a huge part in filmmaking right now.
Now, we can try to create intimate scenes using technology
“This period will throw up a lot of innovative ideas for filmmaking using VFX. In fact, it will make visible changes in the way TV, gaming and advertising industries function. With precise planning, VFX can be a tool for filmmakers to make the shooting process more convenient. Crowd scenes were always a part of VFX, and now, we can try to create intimate scenes using technology. But I doubt if a full-scale CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) will be worth the effort in most cases, as it adds to the expense,” said Naveen Paul (co-founder and VFX supervisor at NY vfxwaala), who has worked on the special effects for movies like ‘Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior’.
Keitan Yadav (COO, Redchillies VFX) believes that the future of cinema lies in virtual production. He cited examples of films like ‘The Lion King’ and ‘The Mandalorian’ series, which were shot using virtual production technology. It was also employed for parts of the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer, ‘Zero’. He shared, “Filmmakers can use this technology at the pre-production stage, for planning and organising the shoot schedule. This will reduce the number of days required for shoots, save cost and ensure smooth execution of shoots. It will reduce VFX work and improve quality within the pre-decided budget.” Harry Hingorani (VFX supervisor and creative officer of the company) added, “VFX companies are the ones, who will be able to help filmmakers adapt to these changes. We recently got a call from a producer, saying that he was half way through the film before the lockdown. They have 50-plus days of shoot pending, including a big sequence that requires them to go out of Mumbai. Since they can’t do that, we are getting into virtual production with them.”
It’s extremely short-sighted to think of VFX as a solution
Producer Nikkhil Advani, whose films ‘Bell Bottom’ and ‘Satyameva Jayate 2’ will go on floors in the weeks to come, said, “It’s extremely short-sighted to see VFX as a solution for shoots post lockdown. You will still have to send a unit to the location to take plates. Also, if it needs to be done correctly, it means matching light conditions, camera angles and depth of field. In India, we have constantly used VFX as a tool for correction, while it actually needs to be used for creation. If VFX has to be an option to shoot at interesting locations and scenes with crowds, it will become imperative to give more time to prep for each of those sequences.”
Without VFX, how do I show jam-packed stadiums?
Filmmaker Rahul Dholakia, who will be helming Taapsee Pannu’s ‘Shabaash Mithu’, the biopic on cricketer Mithali Raj, shared, “VFX will become very important for me, because, without it, how do I show jam-packed stadiums? Also, we may not be able to go to various locations because of revised budgets and other constraints; so, VFX will have to help us. And as far as the narrative is concerned, I don’t think VFX is the only player; rewriting screenplays to adhere to shooting guidelines will play an important role.”
Producer Boney Kapoor agreed, “VFX was already playing a vital role, and now, its importance will increase further. In our film ‘Maidaan’, we have to create a certain ‘period’ as well as different football stadiums. So, VFX will play a substantial role. I do see it becoming a stronger part of the narrative if it helps save cost and enhances quality. But I know that live action and VFX cannot replace each other beyond a certain level. So, we will use VFX as much as possible, especially in times of COVID-19, because the safety of cast and crew is most important.”
Voicing an important concern, he added, “In terms of investment and recovery, I believe that VFX studios will also have to rethink their pricing. If they want to get the bulk of the work, they will have to deliver on pricing as well as quality, as we are all interdependent. There are many countries that offer rebates and incentives for post-production, and that’s something that can be a huge opportunity for Indian post-production industry as well.”