Bollywood gets a new dimension

Written by Sudipta Datta | Updated: Jun 22 2011, 08:47am hrs
Will Shah Rukh Khans ambitious superhero sci-fi thriller Ra.One have a 3D version The buzz is that though the film has been shot in 2D, it is likely to be converted to 3D post-release. After James Cameron raised the bar with his 3D version of Avatar, theres been a tremendous surge in 3D technology in Hollywood. Most of the summer releases this year, from Kung Fu Panda 2 to Cars 2 to Warners Green Lantern, have been in 3D, and Bollywood is slowly following suit, especially in live format 3D and not animation.

With Vikram Bhatts Haunted in 3D grossing R24.60 crore in three weeks, Bollywood is mulling over the possibilities of using the technology for genres like horror, thrillers, science fiction and so forth. Fox Star Studios recently announced that it was tying up with Vishesh Films for Raaz 3 in 3D. This will be the first time a Hollywood studio would be co-producing an Indian 3D horror film. Though details are sketchy, Raaz 3 in 3D will be directed by Vikram Bhatt. Says Fox Star Studios India CEO Vijay Singh, Vikram Bhatts success record in horror genre is well known. For us co-producing with Vishesh Films is a very important decision.

3D is the new trend, says Naresh Malik, COO, creative services, Reliance MediaWorks, adding, Indian films have taken time to adopt VFX. The large scale consumption of 3D will depend on whether producers are recovering the investment or not. Eventually, for a method of story telling to succeed, it has to make financial sense too.

Ram Mirchandani, chief creative office, Eros Entertainment, which is co-producing Ra.One, says the exhibition sector is investing in 3D in a big way and so 3D content is bound to follow. Three years from now, at least 15-20 films made in India will be in 3D, he points out. As of now, there are at least 150 screens in 3D in India. The exhibition players ramped up 3D screens post-Avatar, which was a great success, but by the time Ra.One releases, says Mirchandani, there should be at least 280 3D screens. The sector has done the research and is certain that the audience will pay more for the 3D experience.

Alok Tandon, CEO, INOX Leisure, says there has been a steady flow of 3D movies in the past one year and this year looks as promising as the last. Indian consumers have embraced the new technology of 3D very positively. With the increase in the number of 3D movies, we are looking forward to their good run at the box office, he adds. Inox has 19 3D screens currently and is planning quite a few more in the coming six months. Tandon says the release of Avatar in December 2009 changed the perspective of 3D films. It will not be fair to compare Hollywood vis--vis Indian film industry on 3D. However, Haunted did pretty well and we are optimistic about these movies getting in more footfalls to our multiplexes, he adds.

We are hearing Ra.One is coming in 3D... its an appealing format and people are paying for the experience, says Rahul Singh, senior VP, PVR Cinemas. PVR, which has 20 screens in 3D now, will soon have 33.

Ashesh Jani, partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells, says India and other Asian countries have caught up on the 3D rage after Hollywood. In India, the rate at which 3D screens are coming up is one of the highest in the worldfrom about 40-50 screens at the time of release of Avatar to about 150 screens today. Multiplex owners and distributors have expressed interest in the new format and have announced plans that could result in 500 3D screens in a couple of years. Hence, Bollywood is not far behind Hollywood in embracing the new 3D technology, he says.

Theres a lot of interest in 3D in India, agrees Merzin Tavaria, Prime Focus. Conversion of 2D to 3D is getting a lot of attention, with a number of international directors keen on this approach. One of the first movies Prime Focus will be working on in India in 3D is Shirish Kunders Joker. Ask the players if costs is a concern and most point out that what a 3D film generates at the box office should justify the costs. As Mirchandani puts it: To shoot a film in 3D costs 20-35% more, but its worth it.

But there are challenges, as Jani articulates: High investment (additional cost for equipment and lighting, special rigs, stereographers and requisite technology, post-production and special effects) and the extra time needed to shoot in 3D, a more expensive shooting format than converting a film from 2D to 3D and lack of adequate experienced technicians/professionals for this format.

What Bollywood also hasnt acquired yet is the Hollywood mode of doing film business. For instance, as Warner Brothers brought one of the most popular DC Comic superheroes onto the big screen, Green Lantern in 3D last week, it embarked on a 360-degree marketing and promotion strategy to promote the film. Toys, T-shirts, video games and even kiosks at PVR Cinemas across the country were set up to sell the merchandise.

Theres another more serious front where Bollywood is yet to catch up with Hollywoodanimation 3D. We have to learn to make animation films that are not targeted at children alone, says Mirchandani. Reliances Malik goes a step further to say that we can only do that much with mythological stories. The bottomline is that though Bollywood is abuzz with live format 3D, theres no excitement around creating animation 3D. Not yet. Mirchandani hopes animation 3D will also work out soon.

Says Malik: There will be a lot of 3D content because we will soon have to get used to watching our televisions in 3D too. As Jani puts it: 3D is the new buzzword in India and is here to stay and also go a long way. There is a big line up of Bollywood 3D movies that are under production/finalisation. 3D screens are multiplying as the multiplexes themselves. Alliances, acquisitions and joint ventures by/of production houses will be the order of the day and will give a boost to the 3D business. 3D screens will naturally follow the trend and keep pace with the release of movies in 3D. In the West, theres already a section crying out that theres a surfeit of 3D with concerns around quality, which is leading to a slide in ticket sales, but thats another story.