Srinivas Mohan
Interviewer : Inian & Jyothsna Bhavanishankar | Camera : Rijeesh | Text : Jyothsna Bhavanishankar
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ENDHIRAN VFX SUPERVISOR SRINIVAS INTERVIEW
We all know Endhiran is the product of great teamwork. And one of the major key players of this team work is Mr Srinivas Mohan of Indian Artists who was responsible for Vfx works in the film. In this exhaustive special interview to Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar and Inian, Srinivas talks about his work in Endhiran, the climax, the status of animation industry in India, its challenges and many other interesting topics.
 
A brief on your background and how you got into animation

I am a computer programmer from Andhra Pradesh who came in 1991 to Chennai to learn 3D animation. There were very few people in the industry then. My idea was to do a one month course here as I was very passionate about animation and there were many tools available. While doing a course, Indian Artists came to my institute and were impressed with my caliber and took me onboard. I did a few freelance jobs in advertising for them for 6 months. As Chennai is the hub in south India for such activities, I continued here and I am currently the CEO of the company. The journey has been quite hard. In those days, there were very few professionals in computer graphics (CG) which is a part of Visual Effects (VFx). Visual effects is anything that you do visually which includes animatronics and such allied areas.


The journey has been quite hard




With Shankar we have worked

in Anniyan, Sivaji and now

Endhiran

Indian Artists

Indian Artists is an 18 year old company and I can say it is one of the oldest in the industry. We started with subtitling TV serials and went on to do films as well. We did advertisements using VHS tapes. Our entry into filmdom was through Shankar’s Indian; we did the title in the film. We did not have 3d tools those days and everything in the title was painted. We have worked with talented directors like Shankar, Dharani, and Murugadoss in their films. We also have got 2 National Awards in this journey, one for Magic Magic, a stereoscopic film in 2001 and the other one was for Sivaji for the white skin grafting work. Now we have worked for the most exciting and interesting project Endhiran. We have done many commercials for P C Sreeram and Jeyendra who have always supported us. On the film production side, producer A M Rathnam has encouraged us from the Boys days. With Shankar we have worked in Anniyan, Sivaji and now Endhiran.

Your specific role in Endhiran

I am the Visual Effects supervisor in Endhiran. In December 2007, director Shankar narrated me the entire story of Endhiran. I was very excited as the story and the concept were very new, fresh and wildly imaginative. I was also anxious as such a script has not been executed not only in south India but in entire India as well. I was concerned as to how I would translate his idea visually and it was a challenging job. I suggested to Shankar to incorporate certain steps which are not being followed in our Indian industry, the first thing being pre-visualization or previz. Shankar also understood its importance and agreed to it. A lot of pre-production was needed before we went out for shooting especially when visual effects formed 90% work in Endhiran.


Story and the concept were very

new, fresh and wildly imaginative

A major plus point for me in Endhiran is Shankar’s clarity on what he wanted. This helped us move forward smoothly.

We did a small test with the train sequence in which Rajini jumps, walks and showed it to him. This was one of the first tests on previz. And Shankar was very happy.

Out of 60 scenes, we have done previz for 40 scenes. After this my job was to divide the entire shot i.e. VFx breaker. In the sequences where the scientist interacts with the robot and in the robot dance, there are many layers in one single frame. The first one was Vasee layer in which we shot Vaseegaran in the green screen, next was the Chitti layer i.e. the dancing robot. This was created in CG. We had to use live puppets for some of the close-ups which are called animatronics.

After the VFx break down, my role was to find out the best talent available. I executed 60-70% of the work in India and for others I went overseas. Based on the VFx breaker, we went to LA and chose Stanwinston studios. We also visited ILM, Tippet studios and Café Fx in Hollywood and when we showed our previz work, they were all awed by our international concepts. After hunting and finalizing the best talents, execution of work began. Till the project got completed, I had to constantly interact with cinematographer, editor, art director, director, artists for various requirements. Everyone helped and it was a team work. If for others, it was a two year project, then it was a three year project for me, director, cinematographer and the editor as one year was involved in pre-production.



Climax was the most exciting and

interesting part of Endhiran

Endhiran climax

Climax was the most exciting and interesting part of Endhiran. Although other sequences had blended CG, the climax was more challenging. Everything was created and nothing was live except for the background. The ball formation, the snake, drill, catching the helicopter and even the helicopter was CG. While shooting the scene, imagination of the highest order was required to gauge the position of various objects on screen. It was a tightrope walking as a little slip on any side will mar the sequence as such. We could have gone for realistic side but that would have cost us huge amounts. I took two supervisor’s help for this bit of work from Hong Kong. Frankie Chan who helped me to a great extent in climax and Eddie aided me in the fight sequence. Climax was very challenging and everybody worked hard and we are happy that it is being appreciated.

Director Shankar

Shankar is a Guru for visual effects. Right from the beginning of his career, he has always included some components of visual effects in every film of his. Gentleman, Kaadhalan, Indian, Boys and Anniyan had different levels of special effects thrown in. In Sivaji, we had the white skin grafting which has reached international levels. When I went to Hollywood to discuss with the technicians for Endhiran, they were already aware of our work in Sivaji which spared me from the formalities of introductions. It was a brilliant concept and has reached well. Shankar is a rarity not only in the Indian context but also in Hollywood scene. He is a multitalented person. Shankar is an excellent creator and a great executor. He is very clear about what he wants. Working in Hollywood is much easier than working here because there you don’t need to play multiple roles. However here, the director is a one man army as he needs to take care of many things in addition to creativity. Shankar excels in this.


Shankar is a Guru for visual

effects




Rajini is the ultimate super star

Rajinikanth

Rajini is the ultimate super star for all age groups. I can cite a small instance. When we were in US in connection with the special effects, we took Rajni to an Indian restaurant in California along with some Hollywood technicians who had worked in Jurassic Park and such films. Since we knew his popularity, we had chosen a hotel in a not so populous place. However an Indian couple who had come to eat there was so happy seeing him that they came and said that their child will eat only if Rajini’s songs are played on TV. We were quite used to such things but the Hollywood crew was completely taken aback. That is the reach of Rajini sir and his charisma.

I can quote another incident during the shoot to reiterate his punctuality and professionalism. For a particular scene, it was required of him to sit in a covered box with lot of machinery with just face alone outside. For a person of his caliber, he could have taken breaks and done the shot. But he was very patient, sat in the box for almost 4 hours. And when the scene got delayed too, he did not flinch and got out only after completing it. That is super star.

Interacting with Anthony, Randy & Sabu Cyril

As you all know, Endhiran was the combination of many talents. Everybody worked very hard from the beginning to end. Since previz was very strong in Endhiran, each one of us knew the work of other and had good clarity. There was clear communication between the team members.


Sabu Cyril is a Gyani

Randy is the best visual effects person. Nobody will notice that Rajini and Chitti are being played by the same person. The shots are perfectly blended and people cannot make out the differences. That’s our success. For Randy, it was doubly challenging as he has to shoot the same sequence twice, one with Vaseegaran and the other with Chitti. He has to light twice, mark in the floor about the lighting conditions, placement of character etc. Sometimes, the sequence will go to the next day also in which case he has to match the lighting, go through the process again. It was very tough but Randy pulled it off. His report which ran to 1500 pages has helped us to create the CGI perfectly. Randy is definitely an asset.

Sabu Cyril is a Gyani. He is a repository of knowledge and one can learn so much from him. He helped us in designing the robot and its movements too.

Normally editors will be there when the film commences and come in after the shoot gets over. However it was not the case with Endhiran, and Anthony was involved for three years like us. Anthony’s vision was the major advantage for Endhiran and as this matched with that of the director’s, it helped majorly in the final output especially in the climax. In this scene, there will not be anything as everything was created. But Anthony has to edit using his imagination as regards to the duration of movement. The team of me, Shankar and Anthony had lengthy discussions and after I completed the 3D work, we would again have talks and there would be changes and things like that. As Endhiran is not a routine film, it required a different kind of approach. We all worked in sync and our efforts have played dividends.



Rajini sir was scanned under high

resolution 3D light

What do you think Endhiran has done to animation industry in India overall?

When the concept was narrated to me, I envisaged that Endhiran is going to bridge the gap between Hollywood and Indian visual effects industry and it has come true. Endhiran is going to be the bench mark for all future generation. The future projects have to work much harder to reach this mark in Vfx department. I have also brought in here animatronics and doom light technology as allied components of Vfx.

Under doom light technology, Rajini sir was scanned under high resolution 3D light in which his face is lighted under different conditions and facial texture details were taken. The face is not false, it is true and these details were incorporated into the computer and this is what helped us in the film. These images have been utilized in the climax scene and wherever it was impossible to use Rajini sir.

Challenges faced by the animation industry in India

Budget is the major challenging factor in India. We have the talent and the knowhow but budget is the limitation. In Endhiran we got the required budget and we utilized it effectively. To complete the entire film in 160 crores on par with Hollywood standard was indeed difficult. When you take films like Mummy, the budget was more than 1000 crores and when I have to work much lesser than that but with good standards, it sure is difficult.


Directors now have realized the

value of pre-production work


Another challenge is the clarity factor with the director. The directors here are not well equipped to do such projects and don’t believe in the long pre-production period. But with Endhiran, things have changed and a revolution of sorts has happened now. Directors now have realized the value of pre-production work and fixing of everything before they go for the shoots. In future you will see a lot of Endhiran kind of films in low budgets.

Any current projects?

No, I am in a relaxed mode now and have not accepted any project. I want to educate the directors, cameramen and other crew members and then take on the right kind of projects.

Advice to aspiring animators

This is one of the interesting and upcoming fields. There was a time when parents wanted their children to be engineers or doctors but now they want them to be animators. This industry pays well too, but it is not the money that matters. It is the passion that counts and hobbies are coming to light.



It is imperative to be imaginative

to become an animator

How does one equip to become an animator?

It is imperative to be imaginative to become an animator. You don’t have to worry about the tools. We can always ask someone to operate the tools. Of course, knowledge of tools would definitely be advantageous but that’s only 50%. You also need to be observant about nature because everything is already there in nature. You cannot dispute nature. Artistic skills rather than operative skills are preferred.

Are there good training centers in Chennai to learn animation?

Yes, Mac Academy, Arena Multimedia etc. Earlier there were only multimedia divisions but now it comes as a degree course. After 12th standard, interested people can opt for such degree courses. There are also many universities offering these courses.

How affordable are they?

It is slightly expensive as this field is in its nascent stage. But it is worth spending because the future is for animators. Once you learn the technology and process, it is a happy profession because your hobby is going to be your profession.


The future is for animators

 

Tags : Srinivas, Director Shankar, Shankar, Endhiran, Enthiran, Rajnikanth, Rajinikanth, Endhiran Visual Effects
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