Set in the backdrop of the eighties and nineties, the action crime thriller movie Raees attracted a lot of attention right since the announcement of its poster launch by the film’s protagonist Shah Rukh Khan. SRK tweeted an image of a close-up shot of the ‘taveez’ (locket), which he sports in the poster stating: “This is my personal locket with my parents’ pic in it”.
This lead to a craze for it among his fans which lead to the taveez becoming identical with the character. It so happened that in the movie an entire sequence was shot without SRK wearing it.
Now the question that vexed director Rahul Dholakia: how to incorporate the taveez when the sequence had already been canned?
Voila! The answer to that was visual effects. Raees’ VFX supervisor Ronak Sanghadia was given the small yet tedious job.
We are talking about the ‘Ratha Yatra’ (Pashabhai election campaign) sequence wherein SRK can be seen fighting and moving across the road towards Pashabhai’s chariot. Though it was a small add-on, Sanghadia states, “It was challenging. We had to incorporate the taveez in about 50 shots! A lot of simulations had to be done and an entire new pipeline had to be created. CGI, background preparation and compositing had to be carried out. Since the sequence already had set extensions, fire and smoke enhancements, we had to be cautious while matching the taveez’s movement with SRK’s body.”
Though this sequence was a minor one to work on, this clearly showcases the immense detailing work that might have gone into the making of the movie. Sanghadia explains to AnimationXpress that Redchillies.VFX was brought on board since the principal photography began on the movie. Being set in the 80’s and 90’s era, the major work involved the removal of modern day structures like mobile network towers, buildings, AC split units in order to bring realism to the film.
With about 400 artists working on the movie, overall Raees consists of 1495 VFX shots which accounts for 80 minutes of the film’s runtime (142 minutes). It took about six months for the RCVFX team to complete the project.
Raees features four major action sequences wherein VFX work was required: the blood work observed in the first action sequence when Raees goes to Mumbai, the Moharram chase sequence, post Laila song and when Raees uses his specs as a weapon in the climax .
Says Sanghadia: “The rooftop sequence wherein the Makar Sankranti (kite-flying) festival could be observed was a challenging sequence due to multiple factors. In this scene we can observe an interaction taking place between Raees and Jairaj on the rooftop where Raees was flying kites. Since it’s a widely popular festival in Gujarat, it would have had been difficult to control the crowd at the actual location. So we had to shoot it in Mumbai and later recreate the whole environment using VFX.”
To accomplish that, the team went to Gujarat during Makar Sakranti and did their R&D by taking references like how the kites behave, how the sky look likes with kites, and the terraces. Actors were shot on terrace where there was an empty sky with chroma screen behind them. 40 artists worked on this particular sequence for a period of one month.
We can also observe the boat sequence in the movie during which Raees smuggles the liquor using water transport instead of land. The scene required multiple boats but only four to five of them were filmed. Additional boats were incorporated using CGI. This was preceded by pre-visualisation. “It was a tricky shot as the camera had to move right across the bridge to SRK for which a test was carried out using a drone,” says Sanghadia.
Apart from this, there’s a sequence in the beginning of the movie where viewers can observe Raees travelling on a motorbike on the popular Elllis bridge located in Ahmedabad. The bridge though was used heavily during the 80s and 90s, is currently shut so it wasn’t possible for the team to shoot on it. The entire bridge had to be recreated in CGI and several references were taken from the archives to get the exact structure.
Sanghadia says cinematographer K. U. Mohanan and the RCVFX team worked together to achieve the best possible output which would make Mohanan’s visuals look even better. There was a constant exchange of ideas. He recalls, “There’s this particular shot when Raees steps out of his car before the Laila song and for that we had to create the exterior of the set. Since this shot involved the combination of visual effects and live-action; the cinematographer, VFX supervisor and production designer all worked hand-in-hand to blend the shot seamlessly with the whole sequence.”
Sanghadia is currently working on director Anshai Lal’a Phillauri whose trailer recently got launched and has been widely acclaimed. Along with that, he is busy with the R&D process for Shah Rukh Khan’s movie wherein we will get to witness King Khan in a dwarf form.
Surely, VFX will play a giant’s role in that film.