Namit Malhotra is India’s man of the hour at the 2022 Oscars and for good reason. The third generation of a filmmaking family, Malhotra is the Chairman and CEO of DNEG, the VFX pro behind the Oscar-winning film ‘Dune’ at the 94th Academy Awards, which took place on March 27 at 8 PM EST (March 28, 5:30 AM IST) at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
DNEG won an Oscar in the Best Visual Effects category for its incredible work on director Denis Villeneuve’s acclaimed film ‘Dune.’ The other films up for nominations in the same category included Free Guy, Shang-Chi, the Legend of the Ten Rings, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and No Time To Die. DNEG had also done visual effects for ‘No Time To Die.’
“Dune has set a new benchmark for what visual effects can mean for storytelling in cinema. I believe there will be conversations in terms of ‘pre Dune’ and ‘post Dune’ in terms of what we do in the arena of visual effects, in the coming years. I am grateful to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for this Award and these nominations and proud to see our team at DNEG receiving this laurel. When I think that this is DNEG’s 7th Academy Award in the Visual Effects Category, it gives me great pride as its CEO and Chairman, and as an Indian. I started out in this business from a garage in Mumbai and I had to start from scratch in Hollywood. Now I feel there is no barrier that we Indians cannot breach,” Malhotra said.
While accepting the honour at the Oscars 2022, ‘Dune’ VFX supervisor, Paul Lambert, said, “VFX is the achievement of hundreds of people around the world. So huge congratulations to all the artists and production from DNEG.”
DNEG’s VFX work has previously won six Academy Awards for ‘Best Visual Effects’ - including Tenet (2021), First Man (2019), Blade Runner 2049 (2018), Ex Machina (2016), Interstellar (2015), and Inception (2011).
Talking about the challenges that his team faced while working on ‘Dune’ and ‘No Time To Die,’ Malhotra said, “No Time to Die was sort of just finishing when the pandemic hit. Bond had its own complexities just by the virtue of its scale and quality because the promise of a James Bond movie is that it’s got to look absolutely real. When you go and watch a Bond movie, you expect that all of this is filmed and done with meticulous planning, and ensuring everything that has been captured is absolutely seamless. The audience should say, ‘Oh wow, how did they shoot this?’ So, delivering that photoreal and 100 per cent authenticity in the constraints of time, Bond had its unique challenges from that standpoint including delivering a very seamless vision, which is what you see today. You can’t actually differentiate what’s been shot and what’s been done digitally. Fortunately, people were still in their offices at the time so they worked together and it was a little easier."
Malhotra continued, “By the time Dune came to us, the pandemic had struck and we were in the critical phase of putting the film together globally across all our different offices. But we ended up bringing a very different vision. When you see Bond or any of the other big films, there are always these wow moments when you look at a particular shot or a scene. Whereas in Dune, it’s not necessarily driven to create a wow moment but the whole film is a wow. From the start to the end, it’s the most seamless rendition of a very genuine, consistent vision that is playing out organically. And, to achieve that level of excellence across an entire movie is very different than creating these wow moments. Dune is a new standard in filmmaking because the filmmaker is not trying to say, ‘Look at this scene, it’s so cool.’ You never feel like you’ve been taken out of the movie because everything is so seamlessly integrated."
So what makes DNEG the go-to choice for mega filmmakers for visual effects and in what ways it is pushing the envelope by doing something different with every project? Malhotra said, “We have got more creative artistes all over the world with a very strong technology structure. At the core, there’s a very strong passion for creativity and flexibility. Despite being a big powerhouse in terms of infrastructure and knowing how to execute complex skilled work, the leadership of the company is driven by the passion of delivering very specific outcomes of filmmakers- whether it’s a small film like Ex Machina which got an Oscar a few years ago, it was a very light budget movie in terms of visual effects, or when we are doing Dune or No Time to Die, we are able to adapt ourselves very specifically in the framework of what filmmaker is expecting."
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