Visual effects is one of the most important elements nowadays that enable directors to bring their dreams to life on celluloid and there is one man in the country who has worked on bringing many a dreams come alive over the past two decades; he is the national award winning VFX supervisor Srinivas Mohan, who most recently worked on Shankar’s I and SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali – The Beginning.
The master craftsman spoke to TheGraphicSlate.com on his recent project, working with SS Rajamouli for the very first time in his illustrious career, the most difficult sequences to execute in ‘Baahubali’ and where he believes the VFX industry is moving towards in the near future.
“All the visuals that you see in the movie are the figments of imagination from the magnificent mind of SS Rajamouli, who is a treat to work with,” reveals Mohan. “And the best part about working with him is the fact that he is very good with seamlessly blending technical genius with emotions and drama in his stories, and his earlier movies like Magadheera and Eega are testaments to this fact.”
Mohan further explains that Rajamouli’s knowledge of technology is very helpful for VFX supervisors like himself, as he doesn’t have to spend too much time in visualizing the shots and sequences for the master director and all the visuals are already playing out in Rajamouli’s mind and all Mohan has to basically work on is bringing the photorealistic effect to the images that have been shot on sets to make them look life like.
Mohan also made a special mention of the producer Shobu for his staunch support and belief in such an enormous and ambitious venture. “Shobu sir was a pillar of support for this project and ensured that it got the right visibility and audience. It is also encouraging to see a producer backing a film wholeheartedly and having the courage and business acumen to release the film in two parts to do complete justice to the hard work of every individual involved in it,” Mohan states.
The biggest challenge for the first part of this two part feature was to create a 1500 feet high waterfall, which played an integral role in taking the story ahead for the lead protagonist Sividu/Baahubali and Mohan recalls the work that went into creating the scenic locale for the film. “The final waterfall that you see in the movie took nearly 2 years to create, although we managed to get the 2D waterfall in just 6 months, but to get the perfect look for the final fall it took another one and a half years,” he expounds.
Everyone and anyone who has seen the epic tale has been raving about the visual spectacle that Baahubali is, and most of that centers around the waterfall sequences and the final battle sequence, which accounts for nearly 25 minutes of the 159 minute runtime.
Overall the first part has 2,500 VFX shots, which majorly feature the waterfall, war and avalanche sequences. 16 VFX facilities have worked tirelessly on completing this project over the last three years of its making, with Makuta VFX and Firefly Creative Studio taking up the major chunk of the work; apart from that Prasad EFX, DQ Entertainment, Tau Films, Part 3, Igene, Srushti VFX, among others worked on the feature.
Mohan informs: “Makuta worked majorly on bringing the waterfall to life along with also working on the shots of the Mahishmati city from top. Firefly Creative Studio worked majorly on the avalanche and war sequences apart from also contributing brilliantly to picturise the scene where Baahubali cuts the head of a character in the film. Tau Films worked on the Bison sequence which was completely in CGI and Prasad EFX did some important work on the pre and post war sequences.”
Over 600 artists worked on the entire project during the peak delivery days and the large chunk of shoot schedules were executed in controlled environments and in front of the Chroma screens. “The sets were massive in scale for this feature and thus it was only ideal to shoot most of the war sequences against the green screen. 120 days were spent in getting all the right shots and with over 2,000 artists and 500 support staff on location, it was a mighty task for Rajamouli sir to pull off the sequence, but the end result is something that everyone associated with the project is proud of,” exclaims Mohan.
Mohan also recollects joining hands with Sabu Cyril and Peter Hein on the movie once again and only has words of praise for both. “I have worked with Peter earlier, he makes my work very simple as he truly understands stunt choreography in front of a green screen and can also get the actors to do exactly what he wants out of them,” he adds. He shares similar sentiments for Sabu as well; whom he believes is a master craftsman and was instrumental in creating the visual extravaganza that Rajamouli sir was wishing to achieve in terms of the look and grandeur of the motion picture. Another man that Mohan acknowledges is the DOP Senthil Kumar, who with his master camera angles and great live action capture spit life into the movie and his vast knowledge on working in such a VFX heavy film also came into play and contributed greatly in delivering high quality work.
Mohan doesn’t shy away from complimenting the work of the actors as well. “I honestly believe that the actors of today’s generation are from a different breed altogether. After seeing Vikram do what he did for Shankar’s I, to see the kind of effort and dedication that Prabhas, Rana, Tamannaah and Anushka, along with all the other actors, it’s amazing to share the set with such hard workers.”
The VFX supervisor also takes pride in the kind of technology that has been used to create this magnum opus, right from using photo geometric scans of the actors to using Houdini and Maya software to create the effect of the waterfall, everything has led to creating what Baahubali is being applauded for today.
“I would say we have managed to get 80 per cent of the quality work a Hollywood VFX studio would have done on this project, but at nearly 20 per cent of the cost that it would have charged,” beams Mohan, who feels with more and more directors and producers now acknowledging the importance of visual effects in films; and the level of visual grandeur that can be achieved with proper use of VFX, Indian cinema is only 5 years away from making a film that would be on par with a Hollywood blockbuster.
Those words coming from a man who has worked on visual effects heavy films like: Sivaji – The Boss, Endhiran – The Robot, Shankar’s I and now Baahubali – The Beginning, honestly means that good times are indeed here for the visual effects community in India.