An ‘awe-rambh’ experience: In conversation with VFX heads Abhishek Guha and Devendra Kumar

Aarambh which has been produced by Rose Audio Visuals may be only six episodes old but the mythological show has already become an integral part of several viewers’ weekend plans. Airing only on Saturdays and Sundays in Star Plus, the Goldie Behl directed fiction is set in the age of Vedas and chronicles the intense rivalry between the Aryans and the Dravidans. In a historical fiction like this one, the visual effects are at the cynosure of the work. But the VFX seen in Aarambh has been breath-taking and second to none. Whilst the epic war sequence made viewers squirm in their seats, the Sapta Sindhu depiction was a thing of wonder. And the experience only gets greater with each passing week. As the viewership continues to soar like there’s no tomorrow, we go behind the scenes of Aarambh to find out the secrets of its wonderful VFX, the magnitude of efforts put in by the crew and what the show has in store for the fans in the coming weeks. Here is what the VFX supervisor Abhishek Guha has to say. How has it been working with Goldie Behl? It was wonderful. Thanks to him that I got an opportunity to be a part of Aarambh. We had worked together for Drona which was in 2006 and that is when our association started. He remembered about me giving a few test shots for that. So we got back after so many years. How do you organise the work at the studio? For Aarambh, we are changing the VFX scenario that currently persists in Indian television. We are actually following the cinema process which is normally followed in feature films. The way the visuals effects are shot for those types of films, we try to replicate that. The equipment, shot-taking etc. This is the reason why you will find a lot of detailing and in-depth analysis in our show. In case of postponing or late shoots, was the management tough? How was such situations handled? A scenario of late shoots or the shoots getting postponed hasn’t happened till now. However, we are well prepared in the sense that our work during pre-production is strong enough such that everyone on the floor- right from the DOPs to the chief associates to the ADs to the director, everyone involved is very well aware of what is going to happen in the VFX shots. So even if there is a delay from anyone’s side, the shoot doesn’t halt. The people involved are always at par, always on the same page. Which was the most challenging VFX sequence till now? How did you manage to achieve it? Most challenging scene was when we shot 500-600 artists for the war scene and then multiplied that into thousands. However, considering that we have almost 300-400 VFX shots per episode for a show like ours which is a bi-weekend show, is challenging in itself as even a feature film doesn’t involve so much. We do it with blue screen or green screen backgrounds, but apart from that we also have several set extensions, map paintings, several 3D and transition elements involved. Is there any particular software or technology that you use? No. We are very specific that we are not going to stick to any particular software or any particular technology or any method. Given that Goldie Behl’s stories involve a lot of VFX, the scope of this show is too vast and we do a lot of visual effects work every day. So there isn’t any particular method or technique. We are open to all kinds of software as we have to make sure the deliveries are on time since there is a lot of pressure to deliver the shots to the channel. So whichever software gives us the best, high-quality output we prefer that. We have come across a magnificent Sapta Sindhu scene where the seven rivers converge into one. How was it created? We made a beautiful mat painting for that and it involved a lot of camera rotations. What is the size of your team? We have been assigned several studios where each of them has 100-150 people working round the clock. Will we get to see any good VFX sequences in upcoming episodes? There are a few sequences in the upcoming episodes which involve a lot of architectural changes, and several set-extensions being used. Is there any character from Aarambh which you find as your favourite? Personally for me there isn’t any favourite character or favourite scene. The entire project is so big that we are simultaneously doing four episodes of one hour each. So amid all this, I don’t find any sort of attachment to any particular character or scene or a VFX sequence. What can the audience expect from Aarambh in the upcoming episodes? I would only say that the viewers can definitely expect some visual experience which they haven’t before. But can’t divulge much as the audience will have to wait for what the writers and screenplay people will be writing. However, they are in for a visual treat. We also approached the VFX producer Devendra Kumar. Do you have to attend the shoot? Yes we do go to the location and so does the VFX supervisor. We work according to the shoot and then carry out further execution. How do you organise the work and manage? What is the methodology? We start from the pre-production stage. We talk to the director, the DOP, do the storyboarding and based on that we shoot, make a plan and then execute the VFX. About our methodology of work, it is similar to that in the overseas and there is a cinematic feel to it. Was it a tight budget project or sufficient budget? Ours is a huge project which involves a lot of elements right from numerous set extensions to 3D and transition elements. The VFX of Aarambh is massive and also involves a large crew. How is it working with Goldie Behl? He’s a wonderful director and wanted to work along with him. We share a great camaraderie and also sync with him. How is it working at Rose Audio Visuals? I have joined here for this particular project. Since Aarambh began, I have been associated with this studio though I am in this industry since 1995, initially as a VFX supervisor. But Aarambh is like my pet project which I really wanted to work for specifically for two reasons that is writer K. Vijayendra Prasad and the director Goldie Behl. The overall experience thus far has been really wonderful.