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Watched any movies lately? Unless it’s a Tamil movie, you’re probably not thinking of a Chennai connection to it. But wait, almost every movie made nowadays has a connection with namma Chennai. That’s because the visual effects industry here has grown over the past two decades to such an extent that it’s not just fancy Hollywood fantasy films that use VFX but even movies that are rooted in reality.

Take the 2017 Nayanthara-starrer Aramm (Karthavyam in Telugu) for example. The story is about rescue operations undertaken after a little girl slips into a borewell. You may not have known this when you watched the nail-biting drama but the borewell in the film was completely fabricated on a computer.

The realistic VFX work was done by a team at Chennai-based i-Gene Entertainment Services.

Tata Elxsi, i-Gene, Spellbound, Mist VFX, and EFX are some of the VFX companies operating in Chennai. Their work is so good that one wonders how much of the footage was shot on camera and how much was created on a computer.

Tata Elxsi, Spellbound, Mist VFX, and EFX are some of the other VFX companies operating in Chennai. The VFX work done in Chennai is so good that one wonders how much of the footage was shot on camera and how much was created on a computer. It has become hard to distinguish where reality ends and where the virtual world begins in films. In the last eight years, these companies have done not just regional and Hindi films, but much of the post-production work on major Hollywood blockbusters as well.

Looking East

Riding on the back of US corporate houses outsourcing work to India in the beginning of the 2000s, with some even bringing their R&D work to India, Hollywood production houses came looking for talent here. Despite Hollywood being slightly behind the curve of American IT companies and, later, engineering firms, the California based film industry also began globalizing their workplaces and syncing US processes with India operations in real time.

While Indian companies in Noida, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad have been offering IT-enabled support for US businesses, Chennai remains a major center for film production support.

In the first decade of the 2000s, only the lower-end aspects of film production were outsourced to Chennai. Most of the production on first-level shots and sequences still continued to be done largely in Los Angeles, after which footage created in India was merged in Los Angeles. In the next decade, however, more and more of the production work shifted here.

Today, VFX is increasingly being used even in everyday films and OTT series, as it is cheaper to code it up on the computer than to build a set and props from scratch. In the meantime, the significant improvements in VFX that made it realistic and believable meant that there was an explosion in the fantasy genre of films and series. And so, many of them, such as The Marvel Avengers series, Man of Steel, Terminator, Mission Impossible, the Spiderman series and XXX came to have a significant Made-in-India component.

Today, VFX is increasingly being used even in everyday films and OTT series, as it is cheaper to code it up on the computer than to build a set and props from scratch.

Much of the production work for the HBO mega series Game of Thrones also happened in India. Not just fantasy fiction films, even Christopher Nolan’s science-fiction film Interstellar was an India production, so to speak.

Fox, Sony, MGM, Columbia Pictures and Disney are some of the prominent Hollywood movie companies that have been collaborating with Indian firms for post-production work. It can be said that today 90% of the post-production work of Hollywood movies happens in India. Not just VFX, other aspects of films too are produced in India.

In the past, VFX title credits had a separate section for India operations. Now the credits for main production will need to include work from India. That’s how large India’s contribution to Hollywood is.

So, next time you watch a movie, you could play a guessing game of which scenes were produced by your friendly neighbourhood VFX expert.


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