Remember Cocktail and its picturesque London landscape or the climactic scene depicting the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo in Paan Singh Tomar? Audiences have watched these scenes with relish in two of this year’s biggest hits. But not many know that both sequences were not shot in real life and are the result of what is now an all-pervasive element in the making of Hindi films: digitisation.
Cocktail’s director of photography Anil Mehta shot the sequences against a green screen, and then the digital team, Prime Focus, created a vast cityscape with buildings and streets filled with traffic and people. Similarly, for PST, the team created a small-scale replica of the stadium in Mumbai before the footage captured on location was used to build a much bigger computer graphics (CG) stadium with a CG crowd.
And things are only getting bigger. Anurag Kashyap’s Ranbir Kapoor-Anushka Sharma-starrer will portray Mumbai of the 60s, for which his team has been recreating the city digitally for six-and-a-half years. “I want to make a film in which people can see what Mumbai looked like during the ’60s. That’s what we have been working on since 2005,” Kashyap says.
“It’s not like we feature a few buildings and say, ‘see how Mumbai used to look’. We are building the entire thing digitally — how Victoria Terminus and Flora Fountain used to look, how Churchgate and Marine Drive were when there was no Nariman Point,” says the filmmaker, whose project will cost Rs26 crore.
Recreating bygone eras with sketched backdrops has always been popular but modern technology has given a completely new dimension to the art of filmmaking. A case in point is the fact that while Shah Rukh Khan’s RA.One apparently spent Rs40 crore on special effects, digital work on Salman Khan’s Sher Khan may cost approximately Rs100 crore.
SRK, on his part, looks kicked about the special-effects frenzy. Even though RA.One was panned by critics, he
still plans to make a sequel. “I believe that our company [Red Chillies VFX] has the best VFX unit in India. It would be a big waste if we don’t utilise it
to push the limits of what we do in India,” he says.