The hero and company, leading lady, script and music aside, what arrives as the biggest game-changer in the fortunes of a film is the feast of visual effects. It is the VFX that is responsible for breathing life into the fantastical mammot sets, for period dramas with digital figures and 3-D horses that fill up the silver screen as the magic unspools. This is what distinguishes the grandeur of slick-VFX productions of the South from other films. Whether it is Tollywood, Mollywood, Bollywood, or Kollywood, special effects rule the fate of the movie in keeping with the evolving tastes of the tech-savvy audience feeding on Marvel stock and more.
Accept it. There was a time when a superstar-led movie wooed the audience. Or a gripping, endearing plot made a movie a sleeper hit. Or ace production values in terms of opulent sets, costumes and sweeping choreography sold tickets for the big screen. Now, the cheers and chants arrive with on point VFX that makes the riskyand impossible easy-peasy for thehero on celluloid. Look at the Brahmastra trailer that dropped a few days ago. The movie has been in the makiing for over four years but is all set to bomb if the millennial and Gen Z consensus is anything to go by. We have eyepopping VFX on a colossal scale in mega box office spinners that we can draw comparisons with. Take the computer-generated imagery on the scale and finesse of KGF and RRR. Acting chops, scripts, realistic costumes aside, the sheer enormity of scale and the colossal mark of South movies are enough to dwarf even Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s lavish, stylized productions (Padmavat, Bajirao Mastani) or Salman Khan’s rippling muscle-laced action capers (Tiger Zinda Hai series). In addition to tight scripts, and kickass production, the UX is razor sharp.
Remember the taut sinews in Junior NTR’s thighs in the introduction scene in RRR when he grapples with the maneater, or when the battalion of ‘living, breathing’ synthetic animals spell live-action as they jump out of the cage to attack the British? Or the ease with which Thalaiva forms the robot clone sphere, or sears through cars to whip, smash and shower bullets, finally swishing up the shoot medley in a fire fest on the bridge in the iconic scene in Enthiran, and equal wild play in 2.0 later? There is no comparison between Ra.One and Magadheera for goodness’ sake. You can’t even mention both in the same breath.
The nifty visual effects – around 900 VFX shots in total – in Ram Charan’s Magadheera were iconic, and sophisticated, rolling in 3D tracking, digital matt background blends, animation and more, creating a breathless arena sequence in a dizzying mix of stunts and graphics. The grandeur of the waterfall scene in Baahubali, the presence of the jal parvat, the silhouette of Rocky against the sepia expanse of KGF, are all meticulous imagery that demonstrate a keen attention to detail.
The South film makers understand the power of special effects, and leverage it to their advantage. In Bollywood, in this context, only Ajay Devgan’s magnum opus Shivaay merits goosebump-inducing mention, with over 2500 VFX shots filling the snowy frames. Fittingly enough, it netted the National Award in this category In most Hindi films, VFX is used sparingly, like garam masala. The meat of the budget is spent on designer costumes and signing the hero. But advanced technology VFX is the silent hero powering South Indian cinema. It’s a clear game-changer and brings in a sense of timelessness and universal appeal to the loud, bold (minus the skin-show), and beautifully shot movies that have superb recall value and revisit delight. The tech-savvy film makers from South are serving up a dizzying mix of live action seamlessly blended with CGI to an eager audience that is lapping up Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther.
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