Waterfalls, fires and epic battles between large armies – the outdoor shooting is increasingly is in indoor computers.
As many as 16 technology-rich visual effects studios worked together to create stunning visual effects (VFX) and graphics for India’s most expensive movie yet – a king-and-queen fantasy saga set in an uncertain time and aimed at a global audience.
“Baahubali” made in Telugu and Tamil and dubbed into Hindi and released last week to rave reviews, has already garnered Rs 200 crore in its first week across India and North America. The two-part film has a total budget of about Rs 250 crore, and the second part is due for release next year.
Director SS Rajamouli told HT from Hyderabad that the sets and special effects were blended together in shared costs and it was difficult to separate the costs of the two parts.
“The VFX, pre-production are such that the two parts are together. It all gets jumbled up. “In some cases we shot the actors and then it was merged (with graphics). In some cases the background is created (on computers) but not shot,” explained the 41-year-old Rajamouli, who had earlier won acclaim for Eega, re-made in Hindi as Makkhi.
“In most of the big budget films these days, the big portion is for the stars. Here it is minimal,” said Rajamouli, adding technology was a key part of the budget. He did not give details but industry sources had told an HT reporter last year that the tech budget alone was estimated at Rs 85 crore.
“There were 16 visual effects studios working on the film. All are in Hyderabad and are the best in the country. Predominantly they have been Makuta, Firefly, EFX Hyderabad and Tao Films. These were the principal studios. We had 600 artists just on the visual effects,” the director said.
These special effects technicians worked on computers to simulate or create imposing waterfalls, palaces, animations and “particle effects” featuring dust and fire for stunning visual motifs.
Asked if the effects compared with Hollywood classics such as “Avatar” or recent Tamil blockbusters such as “Enthiran” and “I”, Rajamouli said: “I have a story to tell. My story has some requirements. That’s about it. Frankly, I don’t like to compare.”
But a common thread between the Tamil hits and “Baahubali” is Srinivas Mohan, who supervised the visual effects (VFX). Mohan told movie industry website Pandolin recently that Indian studios can give 80% of Hollywood quality in VFX at only 25% of the cost. Only 20 to 30% of the foreground is real shooting and the rest is all digital, Mohan said.
“I can authoritatively say India is the best place for visual effects,” Rajamouli said. “ In every internationally acclaimed film these days, a major part of the work has been done in India for the past 15 years, including “The Life of Pi “ and “Avatar.” India is the hub for visual effects. But we don’t have the supervisors. All this has so far been driven from abroad due to a lack of supervisors. In future, I intend to see supervisors in India and see more people like Srinivas Mohan come up,” Rajamouli said.
In US dollar terms, the estimated cost of Baahubali is $40 million, while Avatar cost $254 million. Rajamouli said the film was planned as an international project from inception.