We all loved Bahubali:The Beginning, for its epic scale, its breathtaking visual effects, its megalithic yet detailed sets and the list goes on. With the second instalment of this epic saga having released recently, let’s take a closer look at aspects like production design and visual effects that ensured that the film had a colossal impact on its audiences.
In 2015, the Indian film industry was taken by storm as SS Rajamouli, director and screenwriter, released his directorial venture – Bahubali: The Beginning. India had never seen a film of this magnitude, be it its gigantic budget, The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones like monstrosity, or the gargantuan sets built to bring this fantasy world to life.
When it comes to visual effects (VFX), filmmakers from both the Hindi film industry and those from Tamil and Telegu films have often experimented with it, but never with cent per cent success, until this film. So, let’s take a sneak peek at the production design and VFX that made Bahubali India’s most successful motion picture.
Sabu Cyril, one of India’s most renowned production designers, who has won four national awards for production design and has worked on over 100 films (including Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil and Telegu films), had moved to Hyderabad from Mumbai in 2012 to create the sets for this fictional epic two-part saga. It has been shot at Ramoji Film City in Anajpur, near Hyderabad.
For audiences and critics alike, the sets built by Cyril were very evocative. From a waterfall that stretched upwards into the clouds to the elaborate weaponry and props, everything gave a unique character to the Mahishmati Kingdom. According to reports, every single set built had six to seven concept artists and 200 people working on it. Everything, from sets to props to attires were hand-made. In fact, Cyril had a separate warehouse, in which over 10,000 hand-made swords and other props were stored.
While it may be a period movie, it is set in a past out of the pages of a screenplay rather than a history textbook. This gave Cyril an advantage to be imaginative and create a larger-than-life world. For instance, the waterfall that dominates the opening sequence of the movie wherein the character Bahubali is seen swinging by a rock with just one hand and later dancing on the rocks, looks believable in that world. However, the question is that how much of that shot is real and how much is the result of computer-generated visual effects that extended its natural height?
The team shot a waterfall in Kerala, which was 98 feet tall. According to reports, they later recreated eight portions and matched them with the actual waterfall making it look like 1,500 feet long. Meanwhile, they used fibre to simulate the rocks and five high-speed pressure pumps were deployed from a massive tank to make the water gush down from above to make it look like a massive waterfall. Later VFX was used to make the sequence mythical and enormous. In addition to the waterfall, there were mesmerising valleys of flowers portrayed in the film. Artificial flowers worth `60 lakh were imported for this effect.
The intricate design of the palace and the phallic statues in the Mahishmati Kingdom were other important sets of the film. Since the film is based in 500 BC, Cyril took design elements from structures that existed during that time. According to reports, he used elements of the Ajanta and Ellora and Mahabalipuram in designing the structures. There is also an influence of Greek and Roman designs in the Mahishmati Kingdom.
More than 90 per cent of the film comprised of complex computergenerated imagery (CGI) and VFX shots. In addition to hiring a number of visual effects agencies, the VFX team of the Hollywood blockbuster of 2015, Jurassic World were flown in to work on this project. A whopping `85 crore was spent on special effects of the film which is more than the budget of most films in India.
Srinivas Mohan was the main person supervising the astonishing visual effects in this film. He had previously worked on gigantic hits of Rajnikant like Robot and Sivaji. The waterfall sequence, which left audience in shock and awe, was 3D animated to make it look like 2,500 feet long coming out of the clouds. 3D camera projection and various angle camera blocking techniques with assistance of camera animation made it look as enormous as it did.
In addition to 3D animation and CGI, the film has also used heavy animatronics effects. It is the scientific technique to create life-like robots, which can be programmed and operated to act like real characters.
Jurassic Park is one of the best examples of Hollywood for using animatronics to create their dinosaurs. In Bahubali, the mammoth size of the horses and elephants, among other beasts are a result of animatronics. Rajnikanth-starrer Ethiran was the first Indian movie to use this technology.