One of the recent Bollywood films that mesmerised audiences as well as critics with its visuals, the Varun Dhawan-starrer Bhediya, went on to bag the 13th Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival Award for best VFX in a feature film and two VAM Awards. The horror-comedy, set in the picturesque locales of Arunachal Pradesh, boasts of a challenging live-action shoot enriched with CG environments, stylised FX simulations and CG simulations. MPC, a Technicolor Creative Studio, responsible for the film’s visual effects, shared the details of the creative experience in bringing director Amar Kaushik’s vision to life.
The MPC team led by VFX supervisor James Austin, delivered over 640 shots in 20 months. Known for their expertise in creature CG, the studio’s primary contribution was the wolves and the werewolf transformation, displaying the intricate metamorphosis from human to full wolf form.
In an interaction with Animation Xpress, MPC India explained the technical intricacies of the project.
“When it comes to building a VFX universe, having a clear vision is of utmost importance. At MPC India, we worked closely with the director Amar Kaushik and the cinematographer under the creative eye of MPC’s VFX supervisor James Austin to understand their vision and to ensure that the VFX elements we created perfectly complement the narrative,” MPC India production head Nimish Shah mentioned about the team’s experience of working on the film.
Bringing the ‘bhediya’ to life
The team built digital doubles for the transformation sequences involving the actors and the wolves’ interaction. With the help of the FX teams, the artists built the wolf skin, cloth and hair simulations and the wind blowing in a forest with dust and leaves, roots climbing and tightening around Varun, and cloth takeovers to highlight the wind’s motion.
The MPC team used a range of techniques to achieve the desired effect, including motion capture technology and complex simulations of fur, skin, and clothing. The first transformation of Dhawan’s character Bhaskar into ‘bhediya’ was one of the most challenging scenes which was visually stunning.
“The sequence was quite intricate as we needed to strike a delicate balance between portraying the agony of the transformation and maintaining a lighthearted and humorous tone. We wanted to ensure the audience was fully immersed in Bhaskar’s experience while also enjoying the hilarity of the situation. To achieve this, our team worked tirelessly to fine-tune every detail to ensure that the final transformation was a visual treat,” MPC India creative operations head Kiran Kumar V explained.
They shared that creature films such as Bhediya require careful attention to detail, from the creation of the creature’s anatomy and movement to the integration of the creature into the live-action footage seamlessly. The artists meticulously crafted the werewolf form, paying attention to every detail, including fur, muscle movement, and facial expressions. In order to make the transformation scene possible, they used a combination of techniques to ensure that everything was captured in a one-shot scene to create a natural appearance without relying too heavily on CG effects.
The director’s emphasis on keeping the transformation scene as natural as possible while setting a visual benchmark, encouraged the team to push the boundaries of their creativity and technical skills for the movie. The team successfully depicted the werewolf transformation and built a VFX universe that perfectly complemented the film’s dark comedy narrative and tone.
The daunting snake sequence
Besides the werewolf transformation sequence, the MPC team also spoke about the challenges they faced while nailing the snake sequence. The sequence demanded a snake moving up the bare body of the protagonist Bhaskar (portrayed by actor Varun Dhawan) while facing him eye to eye, instilling a sense of fear and danger. To achieve this effect, they used a pipe to simulate the snake’s movement and then added the CG snake on top of it. The most challenging aspect of this sequence was to ensure that the snake’s behaviour was in sync with Varun Dhawan’s movements and expressions to create a sense of realism.
“The snake sequence was a challenging task for our team as we had to create a realistic-looking snake and ensure it matched Varun’s breathing when sliding on his chest,” MPC India CG supervisor Mangesh Kushaba Awate revealed. “We used a combination of animation techniques and advanced software to achieve this effect, and it took a lot of trial and error to get it right. We had to go back to the drawing board several times before we were satisfied with the final result. The project was a testament to the capabilities and expertise of our team.”
Enhancing the environments
Shot in the picturesque landscapes of Arunachal Pradesh, Bhediya also had some of the most breathtaking environments. To further emphasise the beauty of the scenery, the studio integrated additional elements such as foliage to highlight the elements of nature. They built fully 3D environments and set extensions using digital matte painting (DMP) throughout the film to enhance the look and mood. They extensively used blue screens in the shoot to give them a separation to add any extra environment buildings and trees where needed, they also shot clean plates in case they needed to rebuild shots that might need more work in post-production.
MPC, a Technicolor Creative Studio, is global creative studio with decades of visual storytelling experience. The studio’s current projects include Paramount’s Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Apple TV+’s Prehistoric Planet season two.
The horror-comedy Bhediya starring Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon will be available on Jio Cinema starting 26 May.