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Rethinking 3D

Hindi filmmakers are yet to explore the 3D format as a serious option. What’s holding them back, especially when they are pushing boundaries in so many other ways?

The Hindi film industry is growing in terms of content, commerce, scale and numbers, every Friday. The last two years, especially, have seen filmmakers tap into genres that were earlier not really popular, such as biopics, sci-fi, horror-comedy, historical movies, comedy and drama. Much to the industry’s surprise, and relief, these films did well, sending us a heart-warming message – that the audience is hungry for quality content and engaging stories, even if that means change.

But there’s one area the industry has not explored quite as much, and that is the 3D format.

Right from our first 3D film, Chhota Chetan in 1998, we have been enamoured by the technology. While we may have sporadically dabbled with the format in films like Ra.One, Sivaji The Boss, ABCD and ABCD 2, Padmaavat, Race 3 and 2.0. and now have films like Street Dancer and Brahmastra coming up in 3D, these are just a handful of films that have explored this technology.

The question is, why?

In Hollywood, nine of the top ten highest-grossers of all time were 3D spectacles. And you have to count the one that was left out too, Titanic, which was in fact re-released globally with a 3D conversion in 2012.

In India too, the audience is accepting of 3D Hollywood films, which have gone on to mark their names in the top grossers of the year.

Clearly, when it comes to fully exploiting the 3D format, the North American and Indian film markets operate in different dimensions. But, then, the collections of the films releasing with these limited resources are not only entertaining the audience thoroughly but also tracking in the numbers.

This prompts us to wonder at the Hindi film industry’s tentative relationship with 3D. Exhibitors would have us believe that only a few of them have invested in technology to enable 3D playout because only a few Hindi films are made in this format, which, in turn, stems from the uneven track record of desi 3D releases.

And that’s probably because genres that are popular in Hindi cinema, such as drama and comedy, do not lend themselves to the 3D format. The technology is ideal for the larger-than-life, spectacle or event films, which Bollywood also generates every now and then.

So, again, why are we not exploring an avenue that clearly has an audience? Why aren’t we excited to give the audience a unique viewing experience? Why not compel the audience to have a theatrical experience that would be beneficial in terms of revenue to both exhibitors and filmmakers? Why are we not supporting a format that reduces rampant piracy in our country?

We posed these questions to filmmakers, professionals from the special effects domain and exhibitors, and here’s what they had to say:

Mukesh Bhatt, Producer

We have made two 3D films, Raaz 3 and Mr. X. There are very few theatres here that can support this format. Also, the cost of making a 3D film is huge and the exploitation window does not justify the cost. In foreign countries, all the theatres are equipped with 3D projectors. We do not have that in India. Raaz 3 was a blockbuster. If our audience did not have an appetite for that kind of format, why did it do so well? Whether we will be able to see more 3D films here in future depends on the exhibition sector. They have to open up more opportunities for us to make 3D films.

Bhushan Kumar, Chairman, T-Series and Super Cassettes

If we were to look at the highest-grossing Hollywood film of last year – Deadpool 2, The Grinch, Mission: Impossible-Fallout, Ant-Man And The Wasp,  Solo: A Star Wars Story, Venom, Avengers: Infinity Wars and Incredibles 2 – you will find that all of them were made in 3D. Your question makes me wonder why a country that produces the largest number of films in the world makes so few films in 3D.

Last year was a fantastic year for Hindi films. A lot of films worked at the box office, across genres. If I remember correctly, of the top box office hits only Padmaavat was made in 3D.  We are making Street Dancer with Varun Dhawan in 3D.  Street Dancer is an ambitious project, something that is going to be visually magnificent and so easily lends itself to 3D technology. We are also making Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, a period-action-drama in 3D, starring Ajay Devgn.  

I am sure some of the films made in 2D could have been made in 3D. Our films are essentially made for Hindi-speaking audiences in India and the diaspora in overseas territories. Hollywood is making films not just for the US but for territories all over the world, even non-English speaking Asian markets, where they release them in dubbed versions of their local language.  We are still to get there fully. Our budgets are not as massive, we do not have enough screens that favour films made in 3D, especially in Tier II and Tier III towns.

Coming back to the question… can we make more Hindi films in 3D? For a country churning out the largest numbers of films in the world, we certainly can. The last few years have seen a revolution of sorts, with the kind of content Hindi cinema is generating.  India has a vast reservoir of stories waiting to be told. It’s only a matter of time before we tell them a lot more in 3D. While drama and comedy may not need 3D, the format can be leveraged for fast-paced movies that have dance or action or if a film comes with the promise of being a visual spectacle. I am sure if someone were to make a film like Baahubali today, they would make it in 3D.

Ramesh Taurani, Producer

Most of the films we make have a lot of drama and emotion and they are therefore not suitable for 3D. Also, since Hindi cinema has a limited market for 3D, even films that have the potential to be made with this technology do not explore this option as it not cost-effective. Moreover, even multiplexes charge a lot for 3D glasses.

We encountered this problem during the release of Race 3. If they charge `60 extra for the glasses along with the tickets, they pay the producers only `15. The remaining `45 goes to the multiplex. This is a big disadvantage and it is also why nobody wants to make a 3D film. Other films, which released in 3D before Race 3 did, faced the same problem. This is why a lot of Indian producers do not want to use 3D technology.

Of course, action films can be made into a superb visual spectacle when made in 3D and they will bring in more footfalls and more business. Multiplex owners are very short-sighted. They don’t have their eye on the future, and that’s the problem. Until this problem is sorted out, I don’t think there will be many 3D films made in India.

Anees Bazmee, Writer-Director

3D films are extremely visually appealing when it comes to VFX heavy and superhero films. In India filmmakers and producers do explore the genre but it’s not very cost efficient plus it does not go hand in hand with all the genres. I feel we should definitely explore the avenue of 3D films only if the film demands the visuals.

Gaurav Verma, CRO, Red Chillies Entertainment

We have more than 850 cinemas that can screen 3D films. Look at Avengers: Endgame, which has just released. Going 3D for a film kills the risk of piracy too. And, yes, you need a 3D idea to present the film to maximise the effect. When I was with UTV, we backed ABCD and Red Chillies Entertainment also had a 3D film with Ra.One. The idea is if we can do more and more films then we can beat piracy. Also, you should not do a 2D version simultaneously. It works best if you make a film exclusively for 3D, like we did with Shiva Ka Insaaf and Chhota Chetan. If you can play it like that with the audience, where they can have lots of fun, I think the film will do well.

Sunir Kheterpal, Producer and CEO - Azure Entertainment

Globally 3D box office has been trending lower for the last eight years, partially owing to the fact that studios are making lesser number of 3D films which is possibly a direct corollary of higher audience preference for 2D Films. Asia Pacific led by China is the biggest contributor to global 3D box office. 3D format is more expensive to shoot and lends itself better to select genres viz; superhero, VFX heavy stories, creature films, disaster films etc. These are genres where not too much production activity happens in India. Could it work in India? Surely for sports action and creature films. Will it be a game changer quantitatively? Not in my opinion.

Devang Sampat, Director of India’s Strategic Initiative, Cinepolis

3D is best experienced when the film is shot in 3D and not converted into the format during post-production. It has many advantages like piracy control and it generates great excitement among the audience because there is clarity of the product. Indian studios are taking the initiative and I am sure they will take the right decision for the right kind of film. 3D will best suit the horror genre and for movies with grand sets like a Padmaavat. With the introduction of technology like IMAX and 4DX movies, 3D will only grow in India.

Rajender Jyala, Chief Programming Officer, INOX

In Hollywood, the trend of 3D films is very old but it is still not a very popular format among Indian producers. The cost factor is also to be considered. And when making a film with this technology, you must strive for the gold standard in visual effects, while the storyline of the film should be suitable for the 3D format.

After Chhota Chetan, the first 3D film made in India, Vikram Bhatt was the first filmmaker to start making 3D films. Chhota Chetan released in the late 1990s. After that, there were no 3D films made for a long time. Then Bhatt made Haunted 3D, which did really well back then. Then films like Raaz 3 and Ra.One, among a few others, were also made in 3D but they lacked quality 3D effects. Hence, the audience reaction was not all that great in contrast to 3D Hollywood films. This is one of the reasons Indian producers shy away from making 3D films.

At INOX, 65-70 per cent of our 576 screens are 3D-enabled, which could be the same with other multiplexes. This would mean that there are sufficient 3D-enabled screens. Last year, big films like Padmaavat and 2.0 were made in the 3D format and they were very successful. So, in the future, we can expect more 3D films to be made in India.

Raj Nidimoru, Writer-Director-Producer

We did consider 3D a couple of times for films like Go Goa Gone and even Stree. Number one, we didn’t pursue 3D because we were not making traditionally spectacular looking films. We didn’t make movies that had a fantastic world in them. Avengers and similar films suit the 3D format very well but slice-of-life films, drama and the kind of films we usually do here don’t lend themselves to the 3D format.

The Indian industry is in a lucky phase because in the rest of the world, the kind of films being screened has changed dramatically in the last couple of years. In the West, only big canvas, spectacle films and event films are making it to the theatres; everything else is going to streaming platforms. Only India is enjoying the great luxury of being able to mount any kind of film on the big screen.

For instance, we don’t see films like Badhaai Ho playing in theatres in the rest of the world. In the US, only event films and spectacular films play in theatres and hence 3D becomes much more relevant. For us, it doesn’t matter if a Raazi or an AndhaDhun is playing in 3D or not because it’s not a conducive medium.

Also, people are a little wary of 3D because it doesn’t feel natural. We need to wear the glasses and the screen becomes a little smaller. It gets a little dull when you wear the glasses. I have never been a fan of 3D and I always felt like a really good 2D screen is a way better experience than a 3D screen. But I have experienced great films like Madmax: Fury Road and The Spiderman in an IMAX format. For me, IMAX 3D works well. It is truly an experience. We need to make movies that would warrant 3D and right now those are only 10 per cent of what we make.

I am sure there is a future. 3D came in decades ago and it died and was resurrected. Even now, I don’t think everybody favours 3D. I do see a future for it but, like I said, the Indian film industry is in a very special position, where the rules that apply to international cinema including Hollywood do not apply here right now.

As long as we enjoy the stories, I don’t see anybody rushing towards 3D. For a majority of the audience, 3D means the original Chhota Chetan or water falling on your face or something coming right towards you. When people are expecting something like that and you are making realistic 3D films, they will be quite disappointed.

In most of the recent 3D films, nothing comes at you; they just give you a three-dimensional view. I don’t see 3D as an immediate thing for us yet. I thought of it when I did a couple of horror films, that it would add to the drama. However, I don’t see a great benefit yet.

Milap Zaveri, Writer-Director

We have seen films which have done well in the 3D format, like ABCD and ABCD 2. But 3D cannot be used as a gimmick. Whenever films have done that, they have not worked. The film has to lend itself to this format. Maybe an action film or a dance film is more suited to 3D.  The problem is we don’t make enough films that are larger-than-life, high-octane action films that are best suited to this format. We have to use the format only if the story and the genre work for it. You cannot have a love story in 3D but, sure, genres like horror, action and fantasy will work.

From the upcoming films, I think Street Dancer and Brahmastra are in 3D. These genres are a perfect fit. Every 3D film in Hollywood also doesn’t work. The ones that do are the Marvel films, the superhero movies. Take the disaster film 2012, for example. It could have been made in the 3D format but it worked so well in 2D too. They have event films at the top which lend themselves to 3D. If we have event films like Street Dancer and Brahmastra, then we are justified.

If you go for overkill here, and use the technology just for the sake of it, the audience will not watch the movie. It happened in Hollywood, where after Avatar, they started converting many films into 3D but that did not work. The fun of 3D is in its actual format, like what James Cameron does by using 3D cameras. When films like Chhota Chetan released, we enjoyed them because we liked the experience of things coming at us. The fun of 3D is in getting these things done. Now, if Street Dancer and Brahmastra work, people might be prepared to take more risks with the format. But we should be careful to use it only if the subject promises a big-screen spectacle.

Viral Thakkar, VFX Supervisor & Founder, Fluiidmask Studios

I feel the Indian audience is constantly looking for good content. When we talk about stereoscopy as a medium for cinema, it is tagged as a ‘novelty’. When we serve the audience with novelty without good content, things fall apart. Technically too, stereoscopy is supposed to be handled well. Whether shooting native stereo or conversion, if done in a rushed manner, it could lead to audience fatigue.

These issues have arisen in the past, resulting in a lack of interest among movie-goers. Exhibition also plays a very important role here. Providing correct projection and stereo accessories such as glasses etc play a vital role in drawing in the crowds.

I have personally been a part of two major 3D films in India, ABCD and ABCD 2. I strongly feel that if you serve the correct ingredients to the audience, there is a market for stereo. ABCD is a good example of a story and concept revolving around dance, which is handled well on the technological end as well. Both these films worked well at the box office. Thus, I feel that there is definitely a market for 3D films in India. I feel stereo being the strong medium for storytelling, it should find its audience in the near future.

Rahul Puri, Managing Director, Mukta A2 Cinema

I think the exhibition industry has always supported 3D films. Over the last decade or so, exhibitors have upgraded many theatres to be compatible with 3D and this has led to shown in an increasing demand for these films over the years. However, is there a large enough gap between 3D films and 2D for most movies? I would wager not, and so audiences are looking at prices and value before making a choice. The benefits of anti-piracy are much better than 2D but eventually it is demand that will propel these films. Exhibitors are very supportive. 

PV Sunil, Managing Director, Carnival Cinemas

In India, although we are equipped with the required technology to produce cutting-edge 3D films, we mostly convert 2D films into 3D in post-production to save costs as the charges of shooting in 3D are comparatively much higher and the entire process takes more time. This is one of the main reasons 3D has not caught on in India.

Apart from rare projects like Vikram Bhatt’s thriller Mr. X and more recently Shankar Panicker’s 2.0, very few films in India have actually been shot in 3D but we Asians still love 3D. The Indian film industry mostly produces rom-coms, comedies and drama films, whereas 3D-worthy films need to have a larger-than-life canvas and story. 

India is a big market for good 3D and IMAX content. At Carnival, more than 80 per cent screens are 3D-ready and when a film releases in multiple formats, almost 70 per cent of customers prefer 3D over 2D. The 3D format attracts more movie-goers compared to 2D or any other technology in terms of footfalls and collections.

We have observed that due to certain issues when a Hollywood film does not release in 3D in India, it affects the overall business of the film in the country. Being produced and released in 3D plays a significant part in the success of a good film but we shouldn’t tie 3D to quality storytelling. We look for increased value and an improved cinematic experience from a 3D film and it is a game-changing opportunity for the industry. 3D can play a massive part in driving up cinema attendance with a vast and lasting effect in India. But we need more innovations.

Amit Sharma, MD, Entertainment Division, Miraj Cinemas

The reason we do not make enough 3D films is because we need to have stories that are suitable for that format. The best 3D films belong to the animation genre. Unfortunately, we don’t make animation films in India. In fact, I can’t even remember the last animation film that was made here. Even sci-fi films lend themselves to this format and 2.0 is the best example of this. Padmaavat, a larger-than-life-life film, and ABCD, a dance film, have made brilliant use of 3D. Another genre that can make good use of 3D is horror but we don’t make good horror films here either.

The only genre we can work on is dance. We are looking forward to Street Dancer. We hope more films like Padmaavat and 2.0 are made in India for good storytelling to happen in 3D. Business will definitely improve from here on if we increase the number of 3D films. Street Dancer will make fantastic numbers at the box office. The whole idea is to have more stories that can be projected in the 3D format.

The box office collections of films made in 3D are increasing in the Asian region, especially China, India and South Korea. There will be more takers for the 3D format if a film simultaneously releases in both 2D and 3D in the same cinema at the same time even if the tickets for the 3D format are more expensive. We have seen this happening many times. There is definitely an appetite for 3D films and people love watching films in 3D.

Jaiprakash Naidu, Executive Director, Prasad Film Labs (Mumbai)

3D films demand a lot of creativity, both technically as well as content-wise. Although the talent exists, we seem to lack the aforementioned factors to make a success of a 3D project. It is not that only horror and dance films are suitable for the 3D format. Interesting presentation with top-quality content packed with action can also make for a successful 3D project.

Shooting in 3D takes longer than shooting for the more conventional format. This means you need artistes to give you more dates. The greater the number of shoot days, the greater the cost of shooting, and there is an increase in production and post-production hours. VFX is an important part of a 3D film. This increases the budget and makes the project expensive, compared to a film shot in a regular format. All these above factors probably dissuade filmmakers from shooting in 3D.

Given the budget, shooting in 3D is an excellent proposition. Prasad Labs was the first to introduce 3D technology to the Hindi film industry, thanks to our dear friends, Vikram Bhatt and Remo D’Souza. They are wizards in their respective domains, of horror and dance. Vikram has used Prasad’s  3D technology and equipment for all his recent films and generated a new interest in 3D films such as Haunted 3D, Dangerous Ishq, Raaz 3, Creature 3D, Mr. X and a few others. Vikram has filmed the maximum number of Hindi films in 3D. Remo D’Souza is an extraordinarily talented filmmaker and an excellent choreographer, and has taken 3D technology to greater heights by filming his dance films, ABCD and ABCD 2, in this format.

3D makes for a marvellous experience and there is an audience for 3D films in India, as has been proved by Hollywood films that have released here. But we do not have enough 3D theatres to exhibit 3D films in India. We are hopeful that more 3D films will be explored here. Technology and crew are available. Content and creativity are the driving factors.  Above all, the number of screens exhibiting 3D films should increase.

Rajiv Chilaka, Founder & CEO, Green Gold Animation

We all know that 3D animation has a superior ability to portray movement and graphics. It’s also visually more appealing and realistic. The production budgets of 3D are much higher than 2D and the production cycle is a little longer. From a technical angle, the file sizes and rendering of 3D formats consume a lot of space and time respectively. Investment in infrastructure set-up and high calibre systems are also required along with a qualified team to ensure smooth deliveries and execution.

With our film, Chhota Bheem Kungfu Dhamaka, we considered all these aspects and have ventured into this sector. We are ecstatic with the result and we are eager to further explore this format to give the audience a taste of 3D animation. I am confident that production houses will explore this sector more since this format gives the audience a fabulous visual treat and an enriching experience.

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