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Special effects: Bollywood's Prime Focus

By Soumik Sen in New Delhi
Last updated on: July 16, 2004 19:39 IST
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Namit MalhotraIt's boom time for the Mumbai-based special effects company, Prime Focus. It grabbed three major film projects this year, including the contract for creating the invisible hero in Ram Gopal Varma's Gayab that released on Friday.

Besides, it bagged the special effects project for two other major films to be released shortly: David Dhawan's Mujhse Shaadi Karogi and Rajiv Rai's Asambhav.

The new business bonanza at Prime Focus also includes setting up a part of the back-end operations for The Times of India publisher, Bennett, Coleman & Co's,  proposed television channel Zoom.

It is creating a couple a computer graphics stations as well as installing six edit machines. It will also provide skilled manpower to operate the machines.

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Clearly, the company that began in 1995 with a small editing studio and an investment of Rs 900,000, has many reasons to smile: one of them being its turnover that's touching Rs 25 crore (Rs 250 million).

But the company's founder and managing director Namit Malhotra cannot forget the early years when it was almost impossible to get venture funding and bank loans at reasonable rates were hard to come by.

"We were turned away from banks because we were from the film industry, and when we did get loans to invest in high-end machines, they were at the rate of 36 per cent," he says.

Despite the hiccups, Malhotra states, the company had the unique distinction of being among the first media companies to be ISO 9001 certified. "What's more, in nine years, our attrition rate is zero," he says with pride.

Malhotra says the company attempted to get into television software production initially but competition in the segment forced it to focus on offering post production facilities.

Today, it services both the film as well as the advertising industries. If Bollywood producers like Boney Kapoor and Ram Gopal Varma use the Prime Focus facilities for their films, so do ad filmmakers.

Prasoon Pandey, for one, post-produced his Fevicol ads here. Even the latest animation ad for Close-Up was made at the Prime Focus studios.

Talking about Gayab, Malhotra (son of Naresh Malhotra who produced Shehenshah) says that creating the invisible Tushar Kapoor was  fun.

The hero was made to cover himself from head to toe in a green suit and wore his clothes over that. After shooting, the green was removed from the frames with the help of a software, leaving Tushar Kapoor with clothes but without a body. 

The company's new special effects machine MILO has helped them create some stunning effects for Salman Khan in Mujhse Shaadi Karogi. The process involved 40 cameras shooting the star jumping in the air.

Later, the frames from the 40 cameras were aligned for the final shot. In the same film, the motion control camera helped shoot Salman Khan fighting six Akshay Kumars, a la Matrix Reloaded fight sequence between Neo and agent Smith.

To be sure, the company has come a long way in creating film special effects. It worked for Mahesh Bhatt's Kartoos for Rs 2 lakh. Today, it has a 25 per cent equity in Ram Gopal Varma's Gayab, its maiden venture in films. In the past, Prime Focus has worked on title sequences for films like Qayamat, Road and Pukar.

While the company has set its sights on expanding the special effects business in Bollywood, it is ready to leap into the advertising films business as well.

The boutique for creating ad films is being set up in South Mumbai.

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Soumik Sen in New Delhi

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