Kannada superstar Vishnuvardhan, who appeared in more than 220 films over 37 years, passed away in 2009 at the age of 59 due to cardiac arrest. However, as per reports, audiences across south India as well as other parts of the country will have the pleasure of seeing him in the flesh in this week's upcoming release, Kodi Ramakrishna's Shivanagam.
The trilingual (aside from Tamil, it is being released as Nagabharanam in Telugu and Nagarahavu in Kannada) features the late actor in a 10-minute cameo — one that has been created entirely using CGI (computer-generated imagery).
Ramakrishna, a veteran filmmaker working predominantly in the Telugu film industry, told IANS: "One of the highlights of the film will be the scene where Vishnuvardhan makes a grand entry. He appears for about 10 minutes and it took 32 months to create this brief portion in VFX, and it cost us Rs 15 crore."
The CGI for the film was executed by Makuta VFX, the company that worked on the special effects for Baahubali: The Beginning (2015) and Eega (2012).
Explaining how this feat was pulled off, producer Sajid Qureshi said, "In simple form if you want to describe about this CGI technology it is head replacement. Then with the CGI technology, the head of Vishnuvardhan that is created by VFX is replaced. It is the most difficult VFX. We have to match body action, face expressions and voice of the character with the real Vishnuvardhan. Creating Vishnuvardhan was more challenging, because the director wanted to use the same getup and way Vishnuvardhan was seen in his last few films. That will connect immediately with the audience (sic)."
This is not the first time that an Indian film production has used CGI to recreate an entire performance by a deceased actor in a live-action film. A Malayalam film called Avatharam had endeavoured to do the same with deceased Malayalam actor Jayan in 2011, although it doesn't seem to have ever reached theatres. In 2014, the Rajinikanth-starrer Kochadaiiyaan used 3D modelling and motion-capture technology to create a character with the likeness of the comedian Nagesh, who had passed away in 2009.
In Hollywood, a combination of body doubles and computer graphics were used to recreate scenes featuring Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee's son, who died in a freak accident during the shoot of The Crow (1994). Later, CGI was famously used in Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000) to finish the film after veteran actor Oliver Reed suffered a heart attack before filming had ended. Deceased actors Lawrence Olivier and Marlon Brando too appeared in full-fledged roles created from scratch using CGI in Sky Captain and the World Of Tomorrow (2004) and Superman Returns (2006) respectively.
Watch the Tamil trailer of Shivanagam below.
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