Inspired by Life of Pi, filmmaker Maamani has made the CG-rich Kaanagam which revolves around a leopard. The film is set to hit the screens soon

The movie Life of Pi has become an inspiration for some of our filmmakers, just as ET once spawned a whole series of 'alien' movies. Filmmaker Maamani may not be tech-savvy in the real sense of the word but has the drive to explore uncharted territories. “I am a school dropout. The world of cinema has brought me from the villages to this big city (Chennai) where I watched scores of international movies, read books on filmmaking and familiarised myself with the technical aspects of direction,” says Maamani whose debut film Akku, an experimental thriller, was released in 2011.

Inspired by the tiger in Life of Pi, Maamani wrote a romantic action story, Kaanagam, in which a leopard is the central character. Set in the lush, green forests of South India, Maamani shot the flora and fauna required to integrate with the specially created animated footage which he sourced from abroad. “There are special effects studios which will provide all that you require, based on your script. I worked extensively on a story board which required the leopard scenes. Once I received the animated footage, I was able to shoot the required scenes in the forests as well as in the studio to enable our CG specialists to merge the two.”

Scenic locations

For a scene where the leopard chases the heroine in a river, Maamani constructed a channel within the studio, filled it with water and made the girl run in it. This was captured on film and later, using CG, the leopard in motion was patched on. Maamani shot in scenic locations in the forests, on deserted highways and vast open spaces to facilitate the incorporation of CG images. Using the Arriflex 435 camera and Fuji film, Maamani was able to get the colours and textures required for his scenes. “From October last year till January, I shot for 75 days in the forests of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Thereafter, we started working on CG with three independent teams of software engineers. This process took a year to complete. The final outcome is so realistic that it is quite difficult to tell the natural from the computer-generated shots,” says Maamani.

For yet another sequence, he shot several angles of a helicopter and then the CG experts worked on creating flying scenes. “Otherwise, getting permission to shoot and hiring a chopper for several days would have pushed the production cost to unimaginable levels,” says Maamani. “If properly employed, the computer-generated images and graphics can be merged with real-life footage to produce extraordinary results,” he adds. Kaanagam has music by Sriram, but the four songs are built into the background of the movie. It stars Krishnadev and Anjana, while (Shankar) Ganesh’s son Sri debuts in a negative role. “I am thankful to Anu Hassan who agreed to do a special role in the film and flew down from London on her own to shoot for her scenes,” says Maamani.

With post-production work on in full swing, Kaanagam is expected to hit the screens shortly.