If the increase in the number of 3D films — Bollywood and regional (not to forget re-releases of hits!) is any indication, it seems like a win-win situation for everyone involved.

It gets better and better on 3D — flying boats, flying fish, speeding cars, spooky villains, and heroes who dance like a dream. When a digital Richard Parker leapt out of hiding in Life Of Pi, the audience jumped. They were on the edge of their seats when Prabhu Deva burst on to the screen in Any Body Can Dance. And they smiled, whistled, and clapped when ‘Superstar’ Rajinikanth roughed up the villains in an all-new 3D avatar in Sivaji.

As filmmakers worldwide shoot films in 3D or convert their 2D movies to 3D, cinema lovers are queuing up for the experience. The success of James Cameron’s Avatar sparked off the trend that seems to be a hit now. A number of upcoming films such as Yash Raj Film’s Dhoom 3 starring Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan’s Krrish 3 and Shah Rukh Khan’s Don 3 are expected to have a 3D release. Rajinikanth’s Kochadaiyaan, a 3D animation film, is eagerly awaited too.

“The next era belongs to 3D,” declares Vinayan, who directed Naangaam Pirai, made in 3D, and based on Dracula. He mentions how the visual magic of 3D in Avatar, Don II and Ra.One (re-released in 3D), and Life Of Pi, pulled the audience to the theatres. “Once big stars feature in 3D films, it will create a big impact.”

But the industry might have to write a new script and make compact 3D movies, as they do in Hollywood. Dynamic themes, action thrillers, and fantasy lend themselves to 3D. And, dramatic romances too, such as Titanic (re-released in 3D). “Right content matters,” says Madhu Sudhanan, the VFX supervisor of Vishwaroopam.Avatar is a classic example of fantasy. Final Destination dealt with horror and Life Of Pi showcased magic realism. In regional films too, the content should suit 3D.”

Madhu Sudhanan warns there’s still a long way to go as a deeper penetration of the 3D films depends on the number of 3D screens. “Especially in rural areas, not all the theatres are geared for it.”

Cinematographer Sathish G., who handled the camera for two 3D films — Ambuli and Naangaam Pirai, recounts the theatre constraints faced during the release of Ambuli. Filmmaker Kamala Kannan says, “Even today in places such as Erode in Tamil Nadu, we don’t have 3D theatres. So the films tend to have a limited release.”

Actor Parthepan, who played Sengodan in Ambuli, says he took up the opportunity to become part of the 3D experience. “There is more to come. I was amazed when I watched a 4D film in Toronto. You can actually experience the butterflies fluttering around in the garden. What we need is good content to back up 3D,” he says. In Bollywood, Sathish says, Mahesh Bhatt’s horror flick Haunted set the trend.

It was followed by films such as Raaz 3, Dangerous Ishhq…“Now, Oriya films are also experimenting with 3D.” Director Balaji Sakthivel believes the trend will not be short-lived. “As technology gets more refined, the 3D film viewing will get a rousing reception,” he says. Director Sneha Britto says Indian filmmakers are experimenting with new formats such as 3D and IMAX to appeal to the younger audience. She quotes Naan E as an example.

Cinematographer C.J. Rajkumar says we have come a long way since the 3D films of the 1950s such as the House Of Wax. “3D is an extra wing to the digital filmmaking wave.”

Filmmaker Ganesh Kumar Mohan points out the trend of 3D re-releases in Tamil to the scarcity of big releases. “Big stars make films once in two or three years, so the theatre owners opt for re-release of old films in 3D to attract the crowd.”

Industry experts say the future looks bright for 3D as there are a number of stories waiting to be explored. Sathish says one could revisit the movies of the 1950s or 1960s that have apt ideas and content for 3D. Especially, Vittalacharaya movies and those such as Adimai Penn and Raja Raja Cholan. Rajkumar mentions the action-adventure genre, which is still untapped, with films such as Sholay waiting in the wings.

Kamala Kannan says 3D was considered a gimmick in films such as My Dear Kuttichaathaan that released in the 1980s. Not anymore. “It enriches the movie experience. But, in any format, the script remains the king,” he says.

Filmmaker Naga, a content consultant for TV channels, says it may take some more time for 3D to become mainstream. “For now, it helps to pull the audience to the theatres. Once they get a taste of technology, they will ask for more.”

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Three dimensions of 3DJuly 11, 2012