Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

Red Chillies VFX is raising the bar and how, with some of their brilliant work in recent times – ‘Zero’ being the latest example. We catch up with KeitanYadav- Chief Operating Officer / VFX Producer and Harry Hingorani – Chief Creative Officer / VFX Supervisor to talk about the work that went on ‘Zero’ and how VFX is important for cinema today.Excerpts:

What was the thought that came to your mind when you first got to know of ‘Zero’…and when the process on it began initially?

Keitan: Director Anand L. Rai had this idea in his mind for the past 5 years. He had approached a lot of international studios before approaching us. Keeping in mind the Indian audiences and the connect they have with the actors, Anandji wanted SRK to play the role and ensure his mannerism was intact rather than just replacing his head. After hearing this, we too were hesitant as this was something we hadn’t done before, nor was done globally. However, we did a test on the previous movies of SRK like ‘Dilwale’, ‘Chennai Express’, ‘Happy New Year’ to see whether this could be carried out. After being adequately happy, we released the teaser nationwide on January 1 2018 to get the reaction of every one of SRK playing a dwarf. Post that, the extensive pipeline was created.

What was the biggest challenge that you expected at first, and then when the work began, what did you think?

Harry: When we heard the concept, we realized this is a difficult task. We had two options, go the Hollywood way like in ‘Curious Case of Benjamin Button’. This meant using a body double and replacing the face with SRK’s. We felt, this concept would not work in this project because audiences are very much connected to the actor. We wanted to ensure that SRK’s mannerism, body language is retained. So it was unanimously decided that SRK would play this role himself, no body double. How do we do this? The biggest chal-lenge was to make sure that the vfx is seamless so that the audience cannot make out something is different and this way, accept SRk as a dwarf. This was achieved by the use of blocks (which is also mentioned in the behind the scene by SRK). So if you’ve watched Aanand L Rai’s previous movies, they are filled with human emotions and drama. So keeping this theme in mind, we used the block style to make sure the eye-line amongst the actors matched.We constructed 1and ½ feet perimeter of boxes within which SRK would stand and the other actors would stand on them. Every set we created, we had to keep in mind this proces and as and when it was needed, we would remove the boxes.

What was it that you specifically took care of?

Keitan: The seamless vfx in this movie! Our challenge was to ensure what is shot in reality, and what is in vfx is not differentiated. If we tell you, you won’t believe that the entire movie was shot on chroma. As mentioned above, we used the block method of creating a false floor so wherever you see a fl oor it’s all created in CGI. This method was used to ensure eye-line of all the actors.

What’s been your reaction to the fact that it’s been one of the best films as far as VFX is concerned and the appreciation it got for that?

Harry: We couldn’t be more grateful for being given this opportunity to test our own potential in vfx.

How has it further set a benchmark for redchillies.vfx as a company?

Keitan: Even before the inception of Red Chillies VFX , we have worked on movies like Main Hoon Na with SRK where the VFX shots, the colour palettes seamlessly matched. The next movie was the Oscar nominated- Paheli. From DON to Chak De! India where VFX was used for crowd creation, as well as the hockey ball. In our National Award Winner Ra.one we used extensive VFX. Another movie where crowd creation was used was in Happy New Year. We got accolades for our work in Krrish 3. Another interesting use was in ‘Om Shanti Om’, where we had to super-impose yesteryear actors dancing with Deepika Padukone in the song. So it’s safe to say, Red Chillies VFX has always set the benchmark with unique VFX and we strive to do so in projects to come.

As far as visual effects are concerned, how has the scenario changed in Hindi cinema over the last few years? In terms of the progress you have seen?

Harry: Vfx plays an integral part of film making process in today’s cinema. An increasing number of directors and producers are looking for VFX integration in their movies. Scripts are written keeping VFX in mind. As for VFX in India, it has taken a long leap in terms of meeting creative ideation and quality standards. Technology has also come a long way in meeting the international standards for us in the film making process.

Keitan: Also, vfx is now being used in different genre of movies, like sci-fi , horror, periodicals, historical this way, the production houses savetime and money. When a vision is clearly set, the director can shoot safely with the fl ow laid out, rather than trial and error of shots. In times to come, people who understand the medium better, will be able to use it perfectly.

And in what way do you think there’s still scope for improvement?

Keitan: There is always scope for improvement…if you see Hollywood and where they are, we are still catching up. We use them as our benchmark – as to what and where we need to achieve and grow to.

Lastly, how important do you think it is to have good VFX in our films today…despite the fact that it adds so much more to the film’s budget?

Keitan: I don’t believe this is entirely true…if you know how to use the tool..you can end-up saving money, end-up avoiding risks, saving time. Eventually, vfx helps reduce the cost, enhance the film’s cinematography, visually. Vfx is just another technical tool added to the director, if used effectively.

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