Effects on par with Hollywood: VFX supervisor of Kaashmora

VFX supervisor Stalin Saravanan tells me that Kaashmora’s CGI will be on par with the work produced in Hollywood

Stalin Saravanan is eager to bury the ghosts of Dasavatharam. He led the VFX team behind the infamous tsunami scene. “We made the mistake of picking some inexperienced professionals. Also, as time was a constraint, we couldn’t afford to redo them,” he says. In Kaashmora too, he doesn’t have the liberty of time. “But this time, I’ve chosen only proven people. We have planned it better.”

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The VFX team of Kaashmora has worked on more than 70 minutes of footage, with a large part of the work involving set extension. Stalin explains, “For the war scenes in the second half, we couldn’t afford to travel with hundreds of junior artistes to remote places. Instead, we shot them in interior Tamil Nadu, and expanded the vastness of the setting by altering factors like the depth of field.” Stalin says Ridley Scott’s Exodus:Gods and Kings was a big inspiration. “We have tried to replicate the grandeur of that film.”

Stalin, who has been in the industry for 20 years and has worked on films like Enthiran andBaahubali, thinks it’s a great time to be a VFX artiste, thanks to the surge in demand. “In the South, we are mainly approached to beautify songs,” he says. What does he mean? “For the song, ‘Kumari’ in Anniyan, we travelled all the way to the Garden of Europe in Netherlands, only to find that the flowers hadn’t really blossomed. We altered the colours through a painstaking process. More recently, in I, we shot quite a few of the China portions in Kodaikanal. We simply matched the visuals to suit those shot in China.”

Perhaps, the biggest development in recent times is the 3D Face Scan technology, according to Stalin. “We shoot a stunt double in the fight scenes, and simply merge the actor’s face on to his body,” he says. “We did that in Enthiran. There’s a lot of that in Kaashmora too.” A decade ago, filmmakers could get away with shooting the stunt artiste from angles that would hide his face. “But we can’t do that any more. The audience has become shrewder.” Another advancement is the LiDAR scanning technology, which helps get the setting right. “It’s now possible to perform a 3D scan of a structure like the Taj Mahal, and render it as a 3D set. We used this to create the massive palaces you’ll see in Kaashmora.”

3D Face Scanning as done for Enthiran

Stalin, who has worked on as many as 400 films so far, says Kaashmora’s director, Gokul is “a special professional, and I’m saying that after working with the likes of Shankar and S. S. Rajamouli. He has put in many sleepless nights to ensure that we get the details just right.” It helped immensely that Gokul knew the basics of VFX. “Many directors don’t. Some simply expect me to conjure up a mountain or a waterfall without any understanding of how it can be achieved. People like Shankar and Rajamouli do what they do because they know the challenges. I wish all directors learned the basics.”

No conversation about VFX is truly complete without talk of budgets. “If we had the same budget—maybe even half—as Hollywood films do, we’d produce the same quality.” Kaashmora is a step towards trying to achieve such exalted standards, he says. Surely he’s exaggerating? “Almost 80 per cent of all the VFX is in the second half of the film. Those scenes are proof that we can compete with the best in the world.”

This interview was written for The Hindu.  All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share it.

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