Srinivas Mohan: We wanted the VFX in RRR to be invisible
VFX Supervisor Srinivas Mohan, who pumped life into many wonderful set pieces of RRR, shares the challenges of working on the period actioner
The conundrum while appreaciating visual effects is that a mere acknowledgement of the craft’s employment can be a negation of the effort that has been poured into its creation. The effectiveness of the technique, after all, lies in how seamless and immersive it can be. VFX supervisor Srinivas Mohan, who worked on the VFX-heavy RRR, knew why it’s important for visual effects to remain indiscernible. “Right from the beginning, we wanted the visual effects in RRR to be invisible. The aim was to invigorate the emotion in the story and the performance of the actors with our effects.”
Srinivas offers a fascinating sneak peek into the making of one of the film’s most rousing sequences: when Bheem (Jr NTR) and Ram (Ram Charan) join forces for the first time to save a young boy stranded in the middle of a water body surrounded by inflammable fuel while a compartment of a train rests on the edge of the bridge above him, on the verge of explosion. The two men partake in a rescue mission that demands both of them to take a plunge from opposite sides of the bridge. “There was no bridge,” Srinivas breaks the fact. “It was all computer-generated. We built a road for a few meters and that’s about it. The atmosphere, the city surrounding the bridge, even the water beneath… we created all of them.”
There were, of course, real elements, but their proportion pales in comparison to those created by Srinivas’ team. “We had two half-built pillars and a slab to capture the shadow of the bridge. They were later shaped further during the post-production.”
There’s another whimsical—even funny—story behind the making of the film’s iconic pre-intermission sequence that sees Bheem cause a pandemonium when he unleashes a pack of wild animals into a palace during a party to rescue a young girl. The sequence demanded Srinivas come up with creative solutions to achieve perfection with the resources at his disposal. “After creating the animals and their movements, we employed a technology named Ncam that would amalgamate the image being filmed in real-time with the animation we already have. For instance, if it’s a shot of a tiger pouncing on a man, the technology enabled cinematographer K Senthil Kumar to view the shot in its entirety on the spot. The technology, however, proved expensive, as it was imported from overseas, and we had to adapt to other ways to ensure the filmmaker’s vision was realised without being adulterated. We then used radio-controlled cars as stand-ins for animals to create an interaction between them and humans. We had marks on the cars, which would be later be replaced by animals in CG.”
He then gets to the funny part. “We also used a few trained dogs to double up for wild animals. You do see a few natural reactions of frightened men here and there,” Srinivas quips.
The film has 2,800 shots of VFX, roughly amounting to 80 per cent of the entire film, considering its 186-minute runtime. Srinivas worked on the film for three and a half years, coordinating with more than a dozen VFX studios, nationally and internationally. Was there ever a point during the making when he felt exhausted by the sheer volume of work. “Never. For the viewer, the film offered excitement for three and a half hours. For those of us, who worked on it, we relished the excitement for three and a half years,” he signs off.