Jesh Krishna Murthy
Almost 3 years ago I got a phone call from Kamal Sadanah saying he wanted to make a film with tigers based in the Sudarbans. He sounded very excited and said he is driving down to Pune right away to meet me and discuss. Four hours later, we were sitting face to face as I listened to Kamal's narration, sound effects and all. By the end of the meeting I was not quite sure what to make of this intense but brief interaction. We met again multiple times and each time he had more of the story as he was fleshing things out. All this while I was not sure if this project would ever see the light of day. Even meeting Abis the first time did not give me any real confidence about this project. But Kamal and Abis kept coming back to me with questions on VFX and how things are done. And after each interaction they would go back and study more on VFX and come back with more questions. So while I still remained confused about the project something inside me started to tell me that these guys were serious and were not here to waste time. The amount of effort they were putting in was pretty serious and it got my attention. That's when I started to take them seriously and what began as a random meeting turned into a friendship. From then onwards, this has been my movie and we have spent countless hours, days and months looking at ways to put all our efforts on to the silver screen. Roar is not a Kamal & Abis film, it is an Anibrain film, it is my film, it is an Anibrain film.
From a creative perspective the task on hand was very, very complex. In the beginning we did not know how we were going to achieve all the things Kamal & Abis wanted in the film. So basically we convinced them and ourselves that we could do it. There is a fine line between courage and stupidity. Even to attempt building a CG tiger in the budget we had was a silly idea. And then you throw in snakes, crocodiles, flamingoes, lizards, bees and a cacophony of other effects and you have a recipe for disaster insanity.
But insanity is what is needed when you know that no other method shall succeed. Roar has been by far the biggest challenge of my life. So many small things need to be done just right for the tiger to work as a whole and that took us a lot of time. We developed a lot of techniques to help us create a sellable performance. I guess we were stupid enough to take on the challenge and at no point did we ever give up or say that we have now done all we can. As I sit here writing this, we still have some shots to complete and every day we discuss ways to make things look better, add that little bit of extra magic so the shots look as good as they can. And it does not end there. We have worked on nearly 750 shots on the film and each one had their own peculiar needs and demands.
We have spent countless hours watching tiger footage, studying fur, animal muscle systems, eyes and even studying tiger teeth. And then done it again for the snakes and the crocodiles. We have spent countless hours tweaking the cat's whiskers or the comb of the fur. Countless hours making sure that the shadows were just right or that the animation performance of these massive cats was just spot on. In computer graphics, there is no magic button. It is just a lot of studying and research and tests and trials to get things just right. We have stressed over how to do the slow motion tiger shots that Kamal wanted in the film. But through all that we never gave up our courage and nor did we every feel there was something we could not do. It was that belief which as brought us to where we are today - with a film we are immensely proud of.
The Anibrain team still cannot put our feet up as we have some very complex shots remaining to be done but I think a big celebration is not too far away. It has been an incredible journey and I can't believe we are nearly at the end of it. The icing on the cake has been working with Kamal and Abis and I don't say that lightly. Their drive, passion and vision helped us go that much further with our work. I am proud to call them friends. They gave me all the freedom to create what I felt would be great for the film and they did not doubt us for even a second. Their approach has helped Anibrain ensure that we left no stone unturned. They have made a massive film and are pioneers in their own right. And I am truly humbled to have made my Bollywood debut with them.