MUMBAI: Larger than life film sets and Sanjay Leela Bhansali go hand in hand. Audiences got a taste of lavish sets in his latest film Saawariya too, which has apparently been shot only on sets and entirely inside a studio.
Saawariya is set in a period of four nights in a make believe town. Since this town does not exist, no amount of location scouting could do any good. Hence Bhansali created it inside a studio by erecting sets designed by Omang Kumar. But a set has its own limitations as well. How can one possibly add depth to a set and make it look like a big town, have a stream flowing, show the characters moving around freely and even show the clouds and the moon, all inside an enclosed studio?
This is where Prime Focus’ visual effects team came into play. Headed by Merzin Tavaria creative head VFX and animation, a team of 35 people worked on 80 shots of the film for six months.
Says Tavaria, “We met Sanjay one and a half year back when the sets were being designed. Our initial plan was to put sky, moon and a few set extensions by means of visual effects and give the film an outdoor feel (because the film was going to shot indoors).”
As work commenced Bhansali’s interest in CG grew, until finally Bhansali decided to start his film with a shot created entirely on visual effects by means of 3 D digital matte painting.
The opening shot of film is an important one establishing the fact that this city, in which the entire film is set, is not a real city. The city had to appear surreal almost like in a story book. With Rani Mukerjee’s voice over and Prime Focus creation of art, the film is set rolling.
For long now, one has seen many such shots and scenes in movies like Gladiator, I Robot and their likes. But such a shot has been seen in an Indian commercial film for the first time.
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For this particular song, the wall on which Sakina (Sonam Kapoor) sways her hands had inscriptions in Arabic language. After the shooting the filmmaker decided to change the design to add to the romantic appeal of the song. To re-shoot the entire sequence would cause logistical inconvenience; hence Prime Focus removed and replaced the design by using visual effects.
While bulk of the work included adding skies, removing and cleaning the studio from the background and set extensions, Tavaria goes on to elaborate the minute details, “You will also see dogs, horses, shadows, a man riding a bicycle, people standing at windows, a person shutting his car and entering his house. These small things go almost unnoticed but if it is not used the film would look empty,” he explains.
Thus came about Bhansali’s belief and confidence in a new art form, which he has used to the fullest to realize his vision. “It is really encouraging when a director of Sanjay’s caliber comes forth to use visual effects to such an extent. Just the way Black raised the bar of DI in films, Saawariya will raise the bar for VFX in films,” concludes Tavaria.
Prime Focus adorns Saawariya: Slideshow