Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy is their latest project, says Dhanapal Padmanabhan, director of iGene Entertainment Services. His Chennai-based digital intermediate and visual effects company has been a part of over 300 movies in the last five years. “We are doing the colour grading and visual effects for the film,” he says. Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy features Chiranjeevi, Vijay Sethupathi, and Amitabh Bachchan in a special appearance.
What exactly do they do? “The I in iGene stands for Information-age. We specialise in post production work. Every film has a tone based on the genre and the director and cinematographer’s vision. A film is shot at different locations and a controlled environment is not possible for every single shot. We are the final leg of production, where we give a uniform colour pattern to the film. The colourist at our studios set the tone for the film,” he says adding that they have also worked on key scenes in Baahubali-The Beginning . R Rangarajan, who has worked as a colourist for over two decades, says, for Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, creating an old world look, dating back to 200 years, is a real challenge.
The other big films that iGene has been associated with are Rajinikanth’s Petta , the Malayalam films Odiyan with Mohanlal, Mammooty’s Madhura Raja and Shiva Rajkumar’s Kannada film Tagaru besides the 2018 Telugu blockbuster Rangasthalam. “Many songs from Odiyan became viral on the social media. We have an end-to end 4K pipeline set up work for colour grading work. We have over 25 projects in the pipeline,” he adds.
- Coimbatorean Dhanapal Padmanabhan has been a part of the digital arena for nearly two decades
- He started a CG magazine called Min Tamil that had poetry, political content, short stories and a mix of other things. He also brought out another CG magazine for children called Pattaampoochi
- He launched a multimedia CD on Bharathiyar’s ‘Pudhiya Aathichudi’ that featured illustrations of Panchatantra Tales. Late writer Sujatha had commended the initiative saying “Bharathiyar would have been happy in heaven.”
- He scripted and directed A Little Dream , a 60-minute documentary in English on the journey of late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam from Rameswaram to Rashtrapati Bhavan
- He is the writer-director of critically well-received film Krishnaveni Panjaalai . It is about an old cotton spinning mill of Udumalpet in the 1950s. He made another film called Parandhu Sella Vaa that was set in Singapore
- i-Gene studios have been a part of blockbusters like Petta , Mersal (Adhirindi) , Velaikkaran , Theeran Adigaaram Ondru (Khakhee) , Aramm (Karthavyam) , Aira, Kadaram Kondaan (Mr K K) , and Kaidhi (yet-to-be released)
Animation industry and VFX (visual effects) is booming, declares Dhanapal, just like the IT boom. “The futuristic technology is suited for gaming, virtual reality and augmented reality, besides movies and web series. We are one of the few studios to have the Trusted Partner Network certificate, which is mandatory to work in Hollywood projects. Our international division has worked on projects like Deadpool 2 , Siren , MissionImpossible—Fallout .”
He says over 90% of Hollywood movies outsource work at studios to India but rues that there is no proper training institute here. “There is a huge gap between demand and supply. We need manpower, but talent pool is limited.”
Dhanapal Padmanabhan has taken it upon himself to train people in the domestic market, aggressively. “The perks are similar to an IT job. They have onshore and offshore projects. There is a demand for VFX producers in Canada, UK, Australia, China and Germany. In Canada, a lot of female candidates have taken to the job in a big way. It’s a creative technology. People from management background can also learn it. We have to somehow address the gap as there is a huge demand for skilled people.” They have come up with a six-month course that offers training for students in a real time studio environment. “We train them for eight hours a day. Later, they become a part of live projects,”explains Dhanapal. “Institutes like Kumaraguru College of Technology in Coimbatore, VIT, Loyola and SRM in Chennai are now keen on industry partnership.”
He further explains how most film makers scout for visual effects specialists across studios. “Every studio has an area of expertise. For example, in Avatar , there are specialists who created the feather, another team who worked on the eyes, and so on. Some are specialists in recreating natural calamities.”
At i-Gene, his robust team specialises in ‘match moves’. “This is particularly required in scenes that involve a live character and a CG-created animal or object. A team of tracking experts use tools to match the complex movements. We have used this technique for a scene in Aira where actor Nayanthara is stuck in a traffic signal and then there are butterflies fluttering around her. Also, for the English TV series Siren on mermaids. You need expertise for that technology.”
His team employed ‘roto and prep work’ in MissionImpossible —Fallout. “ There is de-ageing too where you cut down the age of characters. In the Telugu biopic NTR: Kathanayakudu we used de-ageing to show a young NTR. It’s tricky work.” He says the best visual effects are those that are not obvious on screen. He gives the example of Nayanthara-starrer Tamil film Aramm (Karthavyam in Telugu) that revolves around a little girl falls who into a deep borewell and the rescue operations that follow.
The borewell that was the centre of the action in the film was created at the studio by the special effects team. “It created so much of impact,” points out Dhanapal.