Vadlamudi Srinivas Murali Mohan is a three-time National Film Awards winner for his work in Visual Effects. This Vijayawada-born Telugu-speaking gentleman is known to be extremely patient, understanding and amiable. He left Vijayawada in 97 and has ever since been working on Tamil movies. Married to an Anglo Indian, he settled in Chennai. This is the first time he is working in a Telugu film (Baahubali).
He doesn’t quite like it when one remarks Baahubali is a pride of Telugu cinema. He corrects, “This project is not confined to Telugu, Tamil or Malayalam. Worldwide, it is a cinema language. A director uses a visual medium to communicate and it is not an ordinary thing when he moves the audience emotionally, takes them into a particular time frame and makes them believe that a story like that took place and a world like that existed, there is nothing to beat that feeling. Every technician in every department in the film, while working on the film will get to know where it is heading. After reaching a certain range, we know it will be a big success. Not everyone gets an opportunity to work in something like this, forget about what you are being paid, the satisfaction you get is unbelievable. I have been working with Shankar for Boys, Aparichitudu, Sivaji, Robot … all his projects and Rajamouli once asked me if I could join Magadheera team. I just couldn’t find time then.”
How did he get a break in Chennai and that too with all the big Tamil movies? Srinivas is humble and merely says he was probably lucky to be there at that time,and nothing more. He recollects, “When I was doing software programming in Vijayawada I got an opportunity to create a logo for a marriage video, some titles too. Someone was happy with what I did and sent me to Chennai to do a course. Then I worked on videos and people there too were happy and recommended me to a bigger company, a studio where AM Ratnam gets his titles done. I did the first title for Arunachalam and there was no looking back from then. I think one should have strong belief in what they are doing. Most people like something and opt something else as a career choice. If you can turn your hobby into a profession, the rest of the things fall in place.”
Is it fair to always compare Indian cinema with Hollywood standards when something dealing with Visual Effects on a vast scale releases? Srinivas observes that Hollywood cinema came into being 40 years before Indian cinema took off, their budget and experience of the technicians is different. There have been grandiose period films in Indian cinema and for that point of time it was a great feat. He avers, “Their budget for Avtaar was Rs. 1000 crore, our maximum budget for film is Rs. 200 crore. We can’t bring that sort of quality with our budget. Director Rajamouli says that the only thing that they (Hollywood) lack and we are blessed with is the emotional content and connect. When people abroad see Baahubali , when VFX is added to emotions, it gets only better; the richness of our culture and heritage is showcased like never before.”
He however says it will be a challenge to bring viewers to the theatres in the next five years. People will watch a film on big screen only if there is grandeur and Baahubali is setting a a benchmark. He adds, “Like there is competition between TV and film media, our major competition is Hollywood with films based on visual effects like Thor, Avengers, Captain America etc. We have the scope but in budget we don’t stand close, whatever we release, people will compare the visuals with Hollywood. They see those films in dubbed format with the same ticket, with same grandeur and draw comparisons. We can’t have that budget and give that quality, but we have to give audience the same experience. Working on a Hollywood film is far easier than a Telugu cinema, especially if it comes to grandeur.”