Director Dinesh Vijan gives a new spin to one of Bollywood’s most tried and tested themes – reincarnation - in his directorial debut ‘Raabta’. Starring Sushant Singh Rajput as Shiv and Kriti Sanon as Saira, ‘Raabta’ is the story of two lovers separated in their previous lives by hostile, vengeful forces, reuniting in the present and realizing that they share an inseparable raabta (connection) between them. As the story progresses, the past is repeated and tragedy strikes again. What the viewers are left with is a cliffhanger of whether the past can be changed and if the lovers can truly fulfill their destiny.
Prime Focus was brought in by Maddock Films to deliver visual effects and Digital Intermediate services for the movie, and Prime Focus VFX Supervisor Jaykar Arudra, worked closely with Dinesh and producer Homi Adajania to deliver close to 800 visual effects shots for the film involving a plethora of VFX techniques (including green screen, matte painting, crowd simulation, projection matte paintings, rig removal, CG army, CG boats, digital environments and much more).
Prime Focus was brought on-board quite early on the project. Dinesh ensured that Jaykar accompanied him during preproduction scouting expeditions so that the VFX department could participate in selecting locations based on the VFX approaches that would be taken to realize the director's vision.
Many of the shots delivered for ‘Raabta’ were very complex shots- technically as well as creatively. These included establishing shots of the Patharghat kingdom, interiors of the province and overhead shots of the invading Muraki army. A CG fleet of 300 ships, replete with billowing sails, disembarkation simulation and water interactions was envisioned to establish a crucial story point. Muraki soldiers were also created digitally for the ensuing battle with the Patharghat soldiers.
The visual reference for the Patharghat kingdom was the Sigiriya Mountain in Sri Lanka that provided the starting point for Prime Focus and later a combination of 2.5D digital matte approach along with CGI foliage and architecture were used to recreate the medieval kingdom of Patharghat. For the waterfall ambush sequence, apart from doing crowd multiplication for the Muraki army and extending the environment with CG trees, Prime Focus also created a full digital interior of the cave in CGI. This shot also had a CG army squadron marching through the misty environment of the cave.
Another major challenge for the VFX team was the jungle chase sequence, where Jilan and Saiba end up on top of a branch that looms over a “deep valley of death”. To enhance the visual, Prime Focus created a cyclorama of nearly 300 degrees with various levels of parallax to simulate a fear factor. Besides the CG and VFX, the action nature of these shots meant that the work was very paint-intensive, with artists clean-plating characters' harness and wires, and inserting face replacements in a few shots.
Prime Focus’ area of work also included hand animating a school of fishes to create a stunning underwater environment for Saiba's hunting sequence.
Another key sequence in the film shows Saiba come face-to-face with a tiger.
“The director initially wanted us to create a CG tiger but given how close he wanted to frame and capture the beast's expressions, we decided that it would be much more practical and visually appealing to shoot a real tiger, with actors reacting to the tiger’s interaction rather than the other way around,” said Jaykar. “A lot of details went into adding debris-like twigs and leaves that interacted with the tiger's feet in the shots of the environment. These small things go almost unnoticed, but they add another layer of realism to the whole sequence.”
Prime Focus also conceptualized and created multiple VFX shots of a meteor shower streaking across the sky, for the climax stand-off. The team did some extensive research to ensure the phenomenon looked as realistic as possible.
“A lot of emphasis was placed on accurately achieving the scattering effects of a meteor’s interaction with the earth’s atmosphere, while at the same time ensuring that the meteor shower supported the story visually and enriched the visuals as well,” added Jaykar.
“We are grateful to Dinesh Vijan and Homi Adajania for placing their trust in Prime Focus and their consistent support and guidance, due to which we were able to create and deliver such beautiful imagery,” said Jaykar. “Our positive relationship enabled us to add so much more value at every step towards creating content with such high visual appeal.”
Prime Focus also delivered grading services for the film. Colorist Sunny Singh worked with Dinesh to employ a series of distinct looks to mark the distinction between the contemporary and flashback sequences. While the modern day sequences were given a uniquely rich, gorgeous and fresh look to bring out the chemistry of the lead pair, the flashback sequence were treated with raw, grungy and grayish blue tones with added contrast to compliment the primeval setting of the scenes.