Thursday, 10 September 2015

A little known studio creates ‘Baahubali’ Grandeur

Makuta VFX, a studio from Hyderabad has taken the whole world of animation and VFX by storm, creating the biggest blockbuster in India. Cable Quest reached Hyderabad to bring this first hand information about the studio that has become world famous with the unprecedented success of ‘Baahubali’
“Baahubali,” a Telugu-language film featuring actors unknown outside of south India, grossed 850 million rupees ($13.2 million) in Bollywood’s traditional stronghold within a fortnight of its release. The first of a two-part epic fantasy, “Baahubali” marries Hollywood’s grandeur of scale with an inherently Indian tale of good and evil, using computer-generated imagery to depict ancient kingdoms and bloody wars. In a promotional video ahead of the film’s release, Bollywood movie star Amitabh Bachchan described “Baahubali” as a “magnificent visual” comparable to Hollywood films. “I doubt if anything like this has been seen in Indian cinema before,” Bachchan said  I was amazed to know this movie has been made on a huge budget--200 crs
In a sheer coincidence that with the government launching a Digital India campaign, the world of digital animation and special effects movie  has underlined its commitment to adopt the idea by releasing the costliest VFX film ever. And as far as incorporating the element of VFX in a film is concerned, it has by far beaten Krrish and Happy New Year. 
Baahubali is unprecedented success is attributed to its VFX effect and dubbing as it is the grandeur of the spectacle that mesmerizes the audience and not the star value. A dubbed version in Hindi all across the Hindi belt is also doing amazing business. Baahubali has underlined that one need not require a superstar to make a film a success, rather that amount can be spent on VFX to release the film simultaneously all across the country and reap dividends. In total, the film took three years from pre-production work to making it to the theatres. There are 5000 VFX shots (visual effects) used in the entire film to give it the massive appeal and the dreamy finish that can be expected from a film releasing in 2015. The film was released in over 4000 theatres when it released on 10th July 2015.
Makuta the studio that made ‘Baahubali’ happen, came into limelight only after the grand success of ‘Baahubali’. 
However, Pete Draper, Makuta’s Chief Technical Director says, “Although Baahubali has raised our profile further, we’d like to think we’ve been in the ‘limelight’ for a while now (as our awards collection would attest to).  Makuta has been established now for 5 years, and in that short time we have worked on 14 features plus several adverts, and pieces for the private sector. “
The company was set up by Pete Draper, Adel Adili and Kamal Kannan.
Pete is a visual effects veteran from the UK who has been working within the CG industry for almost two decades with previous roles as Lead and Senior Artist, Head of Media and Director of Visual Effects within studios in the UK and abroad.
Adel has worked within the Indian Film Industry for over seven years, Adel first studied fine art and completed his BA studies at university, however from the start of the CG era he involved himself heavily in CG and visual effects.
Makuta’s VFX studio lead, Dorababu Achanta is an invaluable asset to the company also. He’s been with the company from the very start, and leads the company forward from project to project.

CQ: How did you get involved in Baahubali? 
Makuta: The director, SS Rajamouli has always had a close connection with Makuta (he was initialy on our board of directors). We have worked with him on several of his films, At the time of finishing Eega, SSR was already in development for Baahubali and so right from the very kernals of conception, we were involved in developing the visual look of the movie.
We have always worked closely with SSR. Since Maghadeera (2009) we quickly established a good working relationship and we like to think we are on the same wavelength as him, so that makes things easier creatively. He is an amazing director who can see the whole picture when it comes to shooting a scene which requires VFX. That knowledge he possess alone reduces a lot of hitches we would see in a project were we working with a director less accustomed and knowledgable of VFX methods. The result is we can spend more time on making amazing VFX instead of fixing shooting errors.

CQ:  Were all the visual effects in the movie created by Makuta or some other studio’s were also involved?
Makuta: We were the principal studio for this project and produced over half of the VFX shots in the film [around 1500 shots were worked on by Makuta alone]. Other studios were involved but to a much lesser capacity.
CQ:  What are the major achievements of Makuta till date?
Makuta: Since the company’s formation 5 years ago we have worked on many projects, some of a very high profile and we have won many awards. Our previous films include, Eega (Makhi), Shanker’s I, Gopola Gopola, and Maghadeera to name but a few. We also have bought in a Hollywood grade Depth scanner and are one of a handful if not the only VFX studio in the country to have done so. With it we can accurately scan an envirionment/set or prop to millimetre accuracy, meaning perfect replication and integration when it comes to mixing live footage with CG sets/objects.

CQ: What are the factors attributing to Makuta’s success in the field of visual effects and animation in such a short time of its existence?
Makuta: We pride ourselves on our commitment to all the projects that we work on that will provide the best possible output. Compromise is not an option when it comes to quality and we at Makuta are always trying to find new ways to raise the bar not only for ourselves but the the indian VFX industry.

CQ: What percentage of market share Indian studios hold in the International entertainment and gaming market?
Makuta: India is still growing when it comes to being a world player. For home grown features, yes there is a huge demand for Tollywood and Bollywood movies within Asia, but outside of that not so much. Films like Baahubali are starting to break that trend though as with the upcoming release of its international cut, western audiences will see a version of the movie more accustomed to the format of a movie they are used to seeing. So in terms of percentages, we are still low, but in time and with more films like Baahubali it will surely increase.

CQ: What are the major strengths of Indian visual effects and animation industry and how do you rate our studios Vis-a-Vis studios in Korea, Japan, Singapore and Hollywood that have been dominating the market till now?
Makuta: I think the main difference with studios within India and those in the likes of Korea, Japan etc, is that in those countries I think their own film industry have accepted VFX as an integral part to film making, a concept that is still developing in India. Because of that, these countries’ audiences have seen more local language films containing good VFX, inspiring people to follow a career in VFX and so the the pool of good local artists available increases, thus raising the level of quality further. So It all starts with the educational courses available.
In regards to Hollywood, obviously for economic reasons a lot of work comes over from ’Tinsel Town' nowadays, and we as the Indian VFX industry have to constantly push ourselves and our artists to train and never be content with something that will ‘make do’ in order to meet the standards of western cinema.

CQ: What is making Hyderabad so attractive for VFX studios that it has taken over the title of India’s VFX Hub from Bangalore?
Makuta: A lot of it comes down to content. I think that the stories being told in south Indian movies are a lot fresher and original compared to Bollywood. We are also not afraid of trying something new down here and creating movies that do not conform to the old style of films that have for so long now been a mainstay of the Bollywood film industry. Obviously, a film producer must play to their target audience as for them, the movie has to turn a profit. I think the audiences in the South though are more open to new ideas, thus allowing the film makers here to try something different.

CQ:  What according to you, should the government do to speed up the growth of the industry and make it more attractive to International content creators? 
Makuta: Invest further in providing world class educational courses that teaches the VFX artists of tomorrow not only how to use the software, but how to be creative, how can you present something in a way that no one has seen before, have the students think outside their comfort zone, be creative and nurture that creative talent. 

CQ: Any other views you wish to express regarding Makuta or the animation Industry.
Makuta: We are extremely proud at how far we have come in such a relatively short time. We are still learning and growing as a company. Working on a project like Baahubali has tested our creative skills and pushed us further forwards in terms of quality and creativity… We can’t wait for part 2!

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