Why can't B-town get monster films right?
Unlike the West, we have failed to create a niche audience base for CGI based films, but that's not the only problem. The real deal is: are we making quality CGI films? No, we don't. So, what are the reasons behind it? Is it the lack of money?bollywood Updated: Sep 17, 2014 18:25 IST
You don't need to suffer watching Bipasha Basu's Creature 3D in a theatre to wonder why Bollywood burns its fingers so terribly every time it ventures into the monster film genre. Forget making us tremble in fear (far from it, in fact), every such film, at best just about manages to leave us with a chuckle: our monsters look downright funny, even juvenile.
It's the same story every time Bollywood tried its hand on anything 'scary'. Unlike the West, we have failed to create a niche audience base for such films, but that's not the only problem. The real deal is: are we making quality CGI-based films? No, we don't. So, what are the reasons behind it? Is it the lack of money?
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Jurassic Park, which was released in 1993, was made at an approximate budget of $60 million. It roughly estimates around Rs 385 crore in India. On the other hand, the costliest Indian film wouldn’t consume more than Rs 150 crore, including the promotional drive. Says Shakti Hasija, a well-known VFX specialist from Mumbai, “For Hollywood, the risk to invest big amount is lesser. They have a huge audience base, and thus they can recover the money. Here in India the options are limited. The producers feel safer to park their risks on surefire regular commercial money spinners.”
How does one then explain films such as Ra.One, Robot and Kochadaiyaan? These films are getting good numbers of screens, so there is a chance of making money if the quality is maintained. Sharat Kataria, who is directing Ayushmann Khurrana in Yash Raj’s forthcoming film, gives a twist to the tale, “It’s not just about money, a film works because of the conflicts it generates on-screen. A monster should be designed with the screenplay in mind. It might be 20 years of Jurassic Park or ET or any other such film, but we are yet to give any time to our projects. In our industry, people start criticising the project even if it is slightly delayed in post-production. In the West, no film is released to the theatre till the time the filmmakers are satisfied that they've got even the minutest detail right."
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Critic-filmmaker Pratim D Gupta agrees. “I believe that Bollywood filmmakers don't have the patience and they don't give the time required for quality animation. Their projects are entirely dependent on star dates and everything else is a distant second. In Hollywood, even for successful franchises like Shrek or Kung Fu Panda which require voices of major stars, they take years to get every little graphics work just right. I think the attitude and approach have to be rectified before Indians try and make films of this genre because there is no dearth of talent in the graphics department and even many of the Hollywood films outsource their graphics work from here.”
It’s a valid claim as a look at the credit sequence of some of the most cherished CGI-based films will reveal a number of Indian names. Also, the gap between the Indian and Western technicians is narrowing. Every now and then we see Hollywood biggies associating themselves with Indian films. The latest example is Arnold Schwarzenegger who was in India to promote Vikram’s forthcoming Tamil film I. He has expressed his willingness to work with the Indian crew. This means the potential of Indian graphic artists have been recognized in the West as well.
But, isn’t this also about our film culture? Shakti says, “I remember overhearing some general audience outside a theatre saying Avatar is a cartoon film. I was shocked and realised that the masses don't yet know the difference between cartoon and CGI.”
The knowledge background of a director also comes into account. If reports are to be believed then James Cameron helped in the invention of a new photography technique for Avatar. Can the same be expected from our filmmakers? Shakti explains, “As you will observe the big Hollywood CGI films are made by filmmakers who are well educated in the execution of such films. CGI films require way more planning and clarity of visual canvas of the film than regular films. Costs are not a limitation anymore as we already see films getting made in huge budgets.”
One needs to shoot frames with blank space in order to place a monster in it at the editing table. This will lead to the requirement of a cinematographer who understands the film as well as the director. Further, they should be given ample time to create the scenario, but it’s a bit difficult in Bollywood where the financers demand instant payback. Talking about the lengthy pre-production process of Lord of The Rings or Godzilla or King Kong is easy, but our industry doesn’t look in the mood to carry it beyond theories.