The projector played visuals as the crew associated with the project formed a huddle. “This is not good,” said the director as he switched it off with his remote. The lively room went ghost-quiet. After a pause, he scanned the studio-room full of crew members and jubilantly exclaimed, “This is very good! No one could tell it is CGI! In fact, I would like to tell them that I shot the scene at the location itself.”
Expanding the landscape of storytelling, visual effects technology has advanced by leaps and bounds over the past several years. For far too long, visual effects industry has been unfavourably relegated to a mere technical category however this widespread perception couldn’t be further from the truth. The craft of visual effects encompasses a complex mix of creativity, technical prowess and a firm understanding of filmmaking according to VFX creative director Indranil Roy who recently rolled back the time in the much-acclaimed Bangla movie Hiralal The Uncredited Role. The movie was praised for its storytelling as well as the depiction of British India at the Kolkata Film Festival.
Indranil Roy spoke to AnimationXpress over a cuppa about his VFX journey. Although he had worked extensively in the craft of visual effects in Kolkata, he recounted that his journey in Bollywood began in 2008 where he was coincidentally tasked with re-creating a similar British India-themed gothic structure; Victoria Terminus (now renamed as CST station).
Speaking about his VFX foray in Bollywood feature film VFX, he shares, “1920, a horror movie was a challenge in itself. Vikram Bhatt gave us a simple brief. He wanted something that wasn’t done before.” Not only did Roy’s computer-generated VT station impress Bhatt but also made headlines in the newspapers owing to its realism and intricacy.
At the time, he was working at EFX Prasad corporation and VFX scene was in its first flushes. Unlike now, filmmakers were skeptical about the potential of computer generated imagery.
Indranil Roy’s success brought his way another project which posed a bigger challenge. His friend who is an eminent ad-film director came to him with as many as three animation films. After months of experimenting and seeking help from other animation studios, the director had finally begun to lose hope. To his rescue, Roy realised the exigencies of the situation and took up the project in his hands. Ingeniously cracking the problem with piquant animated designs on his computer at home, he made the timely submission of what had previously seemed like an impossible project.
He shares, “There was almost no time left. It was a challenging situation. I had to complete these three films single-handedly on my home PC in three days by working round the clock without sleep. After delivering these three films, I just fell into the sofa in the post production studio and sank into deep sleep.”
Despite the time constraints, his efforts paid off as one of these three animation films bore fruit and earned him the country’s most prestigious award of the advertising industry – ABBY Award, 2009, Goa Fest, Film Craft – Animation and another film was featured in international top five, adforum.com.
Having made a dent in the advertising space, projects began to come his way. His first VFX for advertising film in Mumbai, under his own company’s banner (Golden Ratio), was a commercial for Reynolds 045 pen featuring master blaster Sachin Tendulkar as the brand ambassador.
Creating VFX imagery has its own set of challenges. His next project in the advertising space needed him to create an entire shipyard in CG. At the time, the ad-director couldn’t find a real one to shoot at and the project had to be delivered in the span of ten days. While ad-film makers were agnostic to the potential of VFX, Roy was confident about his solution and delivered it to the best of his ability.
Having solved such pressing problems in the ad-films, he bagged another Bollywood VFX project called Break Ke Baad. “However there is an interesting story behind it,” he adds. The director (Vicky Bahr) was almost sure Roy was going to ruin the ad film and feigned dissatisfaction with the final output of the ad-film over the phone before abruptly hanging up on Roy. After ten minutes, Roy got a call from him asking him to report at Kunal Kohli Productions’ office.
Telling an anecdote about the project, he narrates, “I still remember on the first day of the shooting, one of the biggest VFX studio in Bombay (owned by one of the biggest corporate firms of India) came with a foreign Visual Effects Supervisor to meet Mr. Vicky Bahri in the set to pitch for the VFX of the film. Mr. Bahri told, “I have given a lot of trouble to Indranil while making the Araldite commercial. I did not trust him at all. But he has proven that I can trust him. He deserves the film.”
Speaking about his experience, he shares, “So I bagged the first independent feature film under my own company banner – Golden Ratio. It was after a few months of quitting my job with EFX. Apart from the other VFX shots, the director asked me to create an interesting credit sequence.”
After the release of the movie, the opening sequence garnered praise by film critics for its inventiveness and design. Pankaj Sabnani of Glamsham.com wrote: “Break ke Baad has one of the best opening credits that we have ever seen. Right from a cinema screen to a t-shirt to steps to a terrace floor, the opening names appear innovatively, leaving a grin on your face.”
Roy shares that it is not the first time that his creativity for an opening sequence garnered praise as it turns out he had created an opening sequence for a television show before he came to Mumbai. He says, “Before coming to Bombay I worked in Kolkata almost for fourteen long years. I mainly used to work for the commercials on local, national and international brands. But the work which became very popular was an opening credit sequence for a Bengali television show for women called Prothoma. I enjoyed creating that montage because I could introduce a very urban Bengali style (which is purely my own style) of illustrations to this.”
After Break Ke Baad, his next project Guerrilla was a serious feature centered on the liberation war of Bangladesh in which three million Bengalis were subjected to genocide by the Pakistani Army. “The movie was directed by Bangladesh Liberation Army’s youngest commander Mr Nassiruddin Yusuf. It had received Netpack Best Asian Film Award in Kolkata Film Festival,” he recounts.
“I feel honoured to be associated with projects that have depicted the epoch-making events in the timeline of history,” states he.
Elaborating further, he shares, “Depicting the Bangladesh liberation movement that led to the creation of a whole new country, depicting the story of the first filmmaker of India and the famous historical battle of Saragrahi,”
He did his first television VFX for a finite series titled 21 Sarfarosh for Discovery Jeet which later was adopted by Netflix too. The series bagged the Indian Telly Technical Award for best visual effects. This was followed by the next project which he describes as “the great opportunity to work with one of India’s most revered VFX supervisors Mr R.C. Kamalakannan in Syeraa Nrasimha Reddy featuring two megastars of India Chiranjeevi and Amitabh Bachchan in the lead roles.
In this day and age, we can hardly imagine a movie without visual effects enhancing the visuals. Therefore, it becomes even more important to recognise the visual effects artistry in what Roy aptly describes as filmcraft.