Interview with Artery Animation chief Yunus Bukhari

null“I am thirsty to do a very VFX oriented 3D/CG feature film where the producer/director can stretch his imagination to his satisfaction and go wild”

-Artery Animation Chief – Yunus Bukhari Whoever constructed the phrase ‘Go the whole hog’ must have had Yunus Bukhari in some corner of his mind. Whether it is giving an interview or doing research work for coming up with CG… Yunus believes in getting to the bottom of things…. Deeply rooted in theatre and the performing arts, Yunus’ persona exudes the sincerity and passion he has for his art and craft. Had he heeded his family’s advice, Yunus would have landed up in a laboratory following his obtaining an MSC in organic chemistry, but here he was at his goregaon based FX and animation studio, coz he followed his own instincts… Animation ‘xpress’ Anand Gurnani met up with Yunus and here are few excerpts from a long conversation… Koi Mil Gaya, Devdas, Rakht, Khel, Josh, Saara Aakash…. how does it feel to be involved with the VFX for such landmark(AS far as India is concerned) FX related movies and TV series? It feels just great. I would like to clarify here that though my involvement with Koi Mil Gaya and Devdas was complete and 100%, these movies were done by Compudyne Winfosystems that is Digital Art Media and I was the head of operations out there. Rakht, Khel, the TV series Josh for Star Plus and Saara Aakash have been done by my company Artery Animation and FX after I parted ways with D.A.M. When did your career in SFX begin? Firstly I would like to point out that though normally it is a practice in India to call all FX as SFX, SFX could also include pyrotechnics, fog, stunts, on location etc. Our industry is called VFX that is visual effects. For me VFX is when I blend technology with art. Coming back to when and how my career in VFX began, I have always been very interested in the performing arts and I attribute a lot of my understanding of VFX to my roots being firmly entrenched in Kannada theatre. I was part of an amateur group called Kala Madhyam and was surrounded by intellectual and highly sensitive people like Girish Karnad, Shankar Nag, Suresh Heblekar, TS Ranga and so on.. They inculcated in me values like authenticity of the project, realistic look and feel of the project, in depth characterization and visualization of the whole project. You would also be surprised to know that coming from a family of highly educated people, In spite of my interest in arts, I also hold a masters in Science in organic chemistry. In 1991, I started doing my independent documentaries and corporate films and TV commercials. My tryst with FX and animation began sometime then. One of my characters was supposed to jump from the terrace and I wanted to give the audience her perspective. Due to the limitations of budget we had in Kannada TV then, we couldn’t create a rig and stuff like that; however we innovated and finally did manage to get the character’s perspective the way we wanted it. That was what I would term as a simple beginning to a long journey which I think will never end. I think I would require 3 births to do any justice to FX. One birth would be dedicated to learning it, the next to practice and the third to perform it on screen. Thankfully the industry seems to be very happy with whatever work I am doing even as I evolve. Let’s talk about Koi Mil Gaya and Devdas, how did they happen and how was the experience working with 2 top Bollywood names? I joined D.A.M in mid 2000, after I was very disillusioned with the way things had turned out at GDR Media where I was creative director. I must add that I had dreamed up a lot of stuff that I wanted to do in the field of FX and animation while at GDR and somehow things didn’t work and the lesser I talk about it the better. When I joined Bangalore based DAM, the company was part of the prospering software group Compudyene Winfosys. Compudyene had a year ago acquired L.A based visionart and was looking at the Bollywood markets. Surprisingly in the 12 months that had passed since Compudyene acquired Visionart, they hadn’t signed on any Bollywood project, reason being the producers wouldn’t pay the kind of monies that D.A.M would quote. I had a tough time convincing with and coaxing the top management that we needed to take on jobs. I was in touch with a lot of friends based in Mumbai and somehow I got information that Sanjay Leela Bhansali who was working on his Devdas wasn’t very happy with the work a top Mumbai based studio was doing for his movie. I approached Sanjay, and when he asked me what D.A.M had done in the past, I didn’t have anything to say, however the feather we had in our cap was thanks to the acquisition of the L.A based Visionart, we had Craig Mumma’s and Marc Colbe’s showreels with us. These impressed Sanjay very much, besides that the fact that I was very perseverant and sincere also reassured Sanjay. There was a lot of haggling over the price between Mr Bharat Shah’s representative and Avishkar Dahiya, but I finally managed to put some sense into them that a Sanjay Leela Bhansali project starring Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai would be a wonderful opportunity to open our innings with. There is some great CG work that we have delivered for Devdas including the song sequence in which Aishwarya is holding on to a CG diya and it flickers and changes hues in tandem with the stained glass behind Aishwarya as she dances and moves. There is also a very meticulously done CG for the Bee scene where we gave Mr. Bhansali 3 options. Devdas was sent as an Indian entry for Cannes and prior to that there was an unpleasant episode that occurred, however I wouldn’t want to delve deeper into that.

“When filmmakers deal with technicians they look out for people who not only do their duty but are also very personally involved in terms of understanding the subject, the commitment and the affinity shared between the team”

Yunus at the Mahurat of Koi Mil Gaya
As regards Koi Mil Gaya, While we were pitching for Devdas and had begun some amount of work on it, we got to know of the big FX and CG centric movie that Rakesh Roshan was planning. When we approached Filmkraft, Rakesh Roshan asked us about the FX we were doing for Devdas. He told me that he was ready with what he wanted as regards FX and he had already spoken to a lot of international studios. He had agreed to meet me only because his office people had told him about the perseverance with which I was following up. Initially, Roshan gave me a 1 line brief. Once gain Craig and Marc’s showreels and the LA connection worked for us. Also was the fact that when filmmakers deal with technicians they look out for people who not only do their duty but are also very personally involved in terms of understanding the subject, the commitment and the affinity shared between the team. Working on KMG was a wonderful experience and I was extremely impressed by the kind of planning that Mr Roshan does for his films. He is an extremely wonderful producer and director to work with. When did you form your new studio Artery animation and FX? As I had told you earlier about some unpleasant incidents that happened while Devdas was being completed, the incidents made me decide that I no longer wanted to work with D.A.M and so I came down from Bangalore to Mumbai and set up shop here. One of the earliest projects that I started working on independently was Josh, the action thriller series on Star Plus, it was the costliest show in the history of Indian Television with a budget of around Rs 45 lacs per episode (I hr), the budget for FX was 10% the cost of the show and both Anil Naidu the producer and Alan Ameen were thrilled with the work. I did all the 13 episodes of Josh and in all we did around 45 mins of FX. The show was a thriller with lots of action, chases, blasts and masking mixes. I must mention here that while working on Devdas, I had developed a good professional rapport with Sanjay and his sister Bela Segal who was the editor. Thanks to that association, when Josh was being planned, Star India programming head Deepak Segal (Bela’s husband) did put in a good word for me. What else did you do for Star India? The top brass at Star was so pleased with my work that they started recommending my name to most of their producers. I feel honored. I am doing Saara Aakash for Miditech where the complete Migs and Sukhoi jets and the air fights have been done in CG, I have been to the Pune airbase and studied the craft before replicating it.

“Nikhil and Niret told me that don’t give us Josh budgets, so I adjusted my rates because the concept was very appealing”

Fighter aircraft for Saara Aakash - in CG
Nikhil and Niret told me that don’t give us Josh budgets, so I adjusted my rates firstly because the concept was very appealing and secondly because Deepakji is invaluable and we cannot afford to say no to him. There came a time that whenever I met with a producer they would ask me to do FX and in the same breath tell me that they didn’t have Josh kind of budgets. However since there’s more potential for CG in films I have been trying to focus more on them and am working towards developing a separate cell for TV FX. Which films have you worked on under the artery banner? What are your latest projects? I did Khel which had a big starcast like Sunny Deol, Suniel Shetty, Ajay Jadeja and Celina Jaitley. We were the first studio in Bollywood to introduce Radiography shots where, whenever Sunny bashes up the bad guys their necks crank and bones crack and instantly the camera travels into the skin and gives an x-ray like image with the cracked bones. Khel had 14 minutes of VFX – There were some plates which were completely CG and those were highly appreciated by people within the community. We created a complete shot in CG where we placed a virtual camera above the clouds and then it zooms onto the vast panorama with the water the moonlight and a CG ship, it was a beautiful shot. Another movie that I enjoyed doing FX for was Rakht, it came my way thanks to Suniel Shetty who was producer for Rakht and was impressed by our work for Khel. Rakht has Bipasha Basu who’s a tarot card reader and who has the power of visions. In Rakht, the visions that Bipasha saw were completely CG and I studied a lot on things like Clairvoyance and visions before coming up with the CG. We were all very sad when the film didn’t do too well.

“In Rakht, the visions that Bipasha saw were completely CG and I read up a lot on things like Clairvoyance and premonitions before coming up with the output”

The current list of films that we are doing FX for includes Vinta Nanda’s White Noise, Gumnaam, AB Corp’s Virudh, Sunny Deol’s Jo Bole So Nihaal and Vipul D shah’s Waqt. null Vipul is one director who believes in meticulous planning. He calls me for his meetings regularly, be it sitting for the music sessions or other stuff, he sees to it that his entire creative team is part of the entire creative process. Thanks to the rapport with Anil Naidu while working on Josh, today he insists on Yunus Bukhari for all his ad films, we recently did Sunsilk commercials for HTA which were directed by Anil. Commercials too provide a lot of scope for CG people. Go on talk about it! Some of the commercials that we’ve done FX recently for are Amrut Chyavanprash Ad where we have constructed a complete Military camp in CG, Sonora vetrified tiles, Suntex fabrics, then there’s the world cup song for which we did some good crowd multiplication. I am thirsty to do a very VFX oriented 3D/CG feature film where the producer/director can stretch his imagination to his satisfaction and go wild. If there is a CG or FX intensive project being conceived by anyone out there, we’d love to do it, we are dying to do it. We feel happy to do something that nobody has ever tried before. I would rather sit in my office and explore myself to the latest technology being used rather than doing normal 2D FX. Aren’t you contradicting yourself when you say this? You are doing 2D FX work aren’t you? I have to maintain my company and relationships. But at heart irrespective of the cost factor, I want to do 3D/CG. You see the difference between 2D FX and 3D FX is that 2D FX is about things like wire removals, compositing, split screens, dissolves and transitions. In 3D FX, one has to understand the film very well, we need to understand the sequence better, we need to visualize the 3D element which will be incorporated and accordingly take the shot. In 2D FX the editor gives the raw materials, it is more of his creativity that we have to implement. In 3D our creativity is much more involved. Skill sets required of a VFX person? 1. Thorough knowledge of film making 2. Camera – Lights, Angles, 3. Editing & Shooting 4. Script to lab (For eg in case of recording on film, 2k res – colorist) 5. DOP has to approve of the shots 6. Understanding the shot and the entire process of film making 7. Visualizing the requirement of CG with the plate 8. Creative, intelligent efforts, perseverance and will to create superior quality output Institute Plans? A very huge plan, which I cannot reveal now. The whole project blue print will be ready on DVD shortly. To produce great animation and CG we need to produce great animators, compositors, storyboard artists etc first!. Which FX work done in India or internationally inspires awe in you? Creative Genre – Dungeon and Dragons, Dr Dolittle 1&2, Mouse Hunt, Godzilla. I would appreciate the efforts behind a Mouse Hount more than a Godzilla because the audience hasn’t seen a Godzilla walk. But in Mouse Hunt everyone knows the motion of a mouse, It requires much more perfection and realism to do a mouse hunt as compared to a Godzilla. Also Spiderman, Titanic, Spy Kids, Matrix, Harry Potter and LOTR, I also remember Romeo Must Die. Can India do international FX work? A studio in India can do international jobs provided they are completely dedicated and focused on doing only international work. Because there is a difference between the mindset, work culture and ethos in Bollywood and Hollywood.

“In 2D FX the editor gives the raw materials, it is more of his creativity that we have to implement. In 3D our creativity is much more involved”

What comes to your mind when I say CG? Castles, winds, towers, mountains, cliffs, valleys. Nice camera movements with motion control camera, stitching of panoramic shots. Involvement of the audience into the movement of the camera.