Prime Focus brought to life 19th-century Nakukara village for Kapil Sharma’s latest film, Firangi, including concept art, seamlessly interwoven set and environment extensions, and evocative matte painting for a total of over 400 visual effects shots. Prime Focus’s VFX work demonstrates the significance and impact of visual effects, not only for bringing period films to life, but also expanding the storytelling palette by conveying drama and atmosphere in support of the unfolding narrative. Set against the backdrop of India's freedom movement in 1920s, Firangi follows a local boy (played by Sharma) who befriends an NRI girl (Gill).
The key shot that highlights the combination of practical assets with CG set extensions and matte painting occurs as the train is shown passing through a bridge over a river in Nakukara. Explaining the level of detail to which the team had mapped out the train sequence, Arijit Ghosh, visual effects supervisor at Prime Focus Limited said, “We did a lot of previz very early on that we used all the way through production. We had to ensure that the depiction of the locomotive was in keeping with the 1920s era. On-set, the production team shot the sequence with simply a static railcar bogie, which was digitally augmented and turned into a full-fledged locomotive using computer generated imagery (CGI). To impart an additional authenticity to it, combinations of digital and authentic elements like smoke and steam gushing through the train’s main engine was added. Also as the train passed through the countryside it was crucial to match the train’s velocity with digitally extended environments. The sequence demanded the design of wide-reaching vistas, forests, tracks, and mountains with a level of detail that made them indistinguishable from the authentic elements of a scene.”
Prime Focus also worked on restructuring the royal palace; adding crucial extensions, backgrounds, and enhancing peripheral architecture such as fountain and roads. “The complexity came in making the palace look bigger and lavish while ensuring that the lighting matched the original live footage.” said Arijit.
For filming, a huge village set was erected on the banks of the Sutlej river, where significant portions of the film were shot. Prime Focus modeled multiple village houses, basing their construction on common 19th-century architecture, including period windows, doors, roofs, roads, bridges, and refining them based on the feedback from production design team. To accomplish this, the team combined plates of the practical set with its CG set extensions, and then crafted matte paintings to recreate the feel of a village from the era of British occupation of India.
We ensured realism by referencing old maps and museum archives from the British era,” said Arijit. “Then we worked director Rajeev Dhingra’s feedback into our concepts to accent and augment the historical representation of the village to support his vision for the storytelling. An entity, such as a town, is like a character in a story so the qualitative details, such as scale, perspective, mood, all contribute to that character, and thus the story itself.”