The secret behind the award winning magic shots for Guzaarish by Prime Focus

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As Bollywood is soon catching up with the international levels of VFX and CG, it was Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s visual extravaganza Guzaarish, which won the title of the best special effects at the APSARA Awards 2011 on the eve of 11 January 2011. Taking the credit for this award is Prime Focus, the global visual entertainment services group where a team of around 50 artists worked together for around 4 months on all the VFX, DI and CG related aspects of the movie to make the movie truly eligible for this award. And rightly so, as it is a movie filled with magic tricks, mesmerizing visual effects, a special classy feel and DI effects, which make the movie, look a bit European.

Reupal Rawal, Sr. VFX Supervisor who was involved in delivering all the challenging shots says, “We at Prime Focus feel extremely proud to have won the Apsara Awards 2011 for VFX. Guzarish has been an opportunity and as well as an inspiration. It’s not just another laurel added on to our achievements, but an experience that has enriched us all in many ways. I feel that the greatest reward for our work is the recognition and such opportunities where we could exhibit our potential and set newer bench marks for ourselves.”

We have a special treat for you because they have given us the secrets behind some of the coolest shots!

Fly Shot

This is the much talked about opening shot in which Hrithik Roshan is sitting on a wheelchair and trying to flick a fly off of his nose. For this sequence, the team at Prime Focus did a lot of referencing to get details of the texture, look and feel, movement, the flutter of the wings etc. Also a lot of research was done to understand the behavioral patterns of a fly, such as the way it moves. Once all the references were in place, the team went ahead and started modelling and texturing in CG to make it look as close to real as possible, then the team started animating it.

Explaining the scene, Reupal said, “The challenge was to match the animation of the fly to Hrithik’s eye movement. After various alterations the movement was locked and then the team moved on to lighting up the fly to match the actual shot with Hrithik. The detailing went to the extent of casting the shadow of the fly when it sits on Hrithik’s nose.”

House Shot

The enormous grand house that appears throughout the movie was a CGI creation to replace the church that was at the shoot location in Goa. Reupal Rawal, VFX Supervisor said: “The brief from the client was to make the house look old and unkempt. To start with we didn’t have a blue print of the church, so we created the house from scratch in CG. The next challenge was to get the desired look and feel, for which we worked on various concepts for the house which covered every little detail”.

After setting the look of the house, which included creating broken window pains and a CG carpet drying outside, the next step was to take care of the lighting to make it look real and authentic and not CG. “For instance on Ethan’s last party the house is fully lit from inside which meant the window panes had to reflect that, so we added CG lighting, which was created in Maya” Reupal added.

The Prime Focus VFX team used photorealistic yellow flowers created in CG and dramatic sky in places to add more essence to the storyline. All the house shots were filmed at different times of the day or night and each one demanded individual attention depending on the narrative.

Candle Trick Sequence

Hrithik performs two candle tricks in the film; the first one is successful but the second one is where he has his accident.

He is shown doing a magic trick where he blows a candle and the CG flame detaches from the wick and keeps floating up in the air, as does Hrithik, who joins the flame back to the wick. This required a lot of clean up work such as wire removal as well as tracking his eye movement to the CG flame. The trick concludes with Hrithik floating down into a huge water tank holding the burning candle and the water extinguishes the flame, the magic re-ignites it.

In the second trick, Hrithik tries the same thing but it goes wrong and he ends up paralysed. Because it was such a crucial scene in the film, the clean up work had to be immaculate to ensure there were no safety wires visible.

Magic Box Trick

In this trick Hrithik is dancing in a ballet with Estella (played by Monikangana Dutta) and he performs a magic trick, making her stand across the table with her head fixed in a box, which Hrithik separates from her body. A 3D replica of Monikangana’s face was created and then animated with her blinking eyes and a smile inside the box. In the second part of the same trick, Estella floats across the auditorium. To achieve this shot, the team had to work meticulously on a lot of wire clean up shots, as well as curtain.

Now you know how some of the award winning shots were done!

Feeling elated about the award, Mr. Merzin Tavaria, Chief Creative Director expresses, “It being the beginning of a new year, receiving this award gives us immense motivation and strengthens our confidence in delivering what our clients expect from us. When we talk about VFX, all that comes to our mind is extraordinary images and effects, but Guzaarish was a film where we used a lot of invisible VFX. We went into highest level of detail and visual artistry to match up to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s expectations. The jury recognized our efforts and our work done for the film, which is a great step towards the industry, as far as VFX is concerned and I want to truly thank them for their appreciation.”

Prime Focus has previously worked on many prestigious Bollywood and Hollywood projects, the recent ones being Tees Maar Khan, Housefull, My Name is Khan, The Chronicles of Narnia -3, Tron, Avatar, The Twilight Saga, and the latest to watch out for would be No One Killed Jessica and Akshay Kumar’s Patiala House.

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