The title track of Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha, the Ajay Devgn-Kajol starrer that released in 1998, was pathbreaking in more ways than one. It was the first time that VFX was used in Bollywood. It was also the first film to start the concept of a promotional video in the Hindi film industry. And actor-filmmaker Ajay Devgn claims credit for both innovations.
"The first VFX was practically done by me, myself. It was for the song in Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha. If you come to my office, you'll see the Limca Book of Records trophy. When machines came in, people did not know how to use them. That song was shot by me and executed on CG (Computer Graphics). That was the first VFX ever done, against a green screen," Ajay told us during a recent interaction.
The song, featuring Jaspinder Narula and Remo Fernandes, became a big hit. Ajay says the concept of a promotional video didn't exist before it. "That is the first time I came up with the concept of a promo. Now every film has this promotional number, which they play during the end titles," he said.
The 50-year-old insists that his love for cinema drives him towards new innovations in filmmaking. His VFX company, NY VFXWAALA, named after his son Yug and daughter Nysa, is one of the most prominent in India.
"I have been into this all the time. If you see the films where we've done CG, we have done some of the best work. I was working with a few people on films, but they were working with somebody else, in a different company. We collaborated together and I said, let's form our own company. Today, we are one of the biggest VFX companies. In the last four years, we've been getting all the awards,” Ajay says.
After VFX, Ajay also ventured into production with films including Raju Chacha, Son of Sardaar and Shivaay. He is now setting an example in Bollywood by starting his own multiplex chain – NY Cinemas. Ajay says that it is out of his love for cinema that he thought of expanding his business in this direction. And his focus is on smaller cities, which do not have the access to premium quality cinema.
"There is no point in building another multiplex in Delhi or Gurgaon in front of another cinema. People are going to decide whether they want to go into this one or that one. You are not increasing the number of viewers. If we make a multiplex in an area where there is nothing, those 4-5 lakh people who are not watching your movies now, become an added number when there's a multiplex in their area. And that's how we grow in numbers. That's where our idea started. And then we decided that we should be pan-India," he said.
NY Cinemas is currently operational in 15 screens across India, and the plan is to come up with more concept-driven theatres, which will provide the audience something more than just a cinema-viewing experience.
Ask him how cost-effective it is to operate a multiplex in a semi-urban area, and Ajay says it all depends on how you build it. "You can eat at a five-star hotel, the food is amazing, but very expensive. The most comfortable food is at home, right? So that is cost-effective. That is the kind of personal experience we aim to provide."
At a time when Hollywood is debating whether digital platforms, with their ease of access, will eventually kill the cinema going audience, Ajay says that he doesn't believe that's going to happen.
"It's been almost a decade now since the emergence of digital platforms. I don't think the audience for the cinema experience is diminishing. We don't have any other means of entertainment at that scale, especially in our country. You have to go out, take your family, children with you. You can't be sitting on a digital platform all the time. So when films are made on a large scale, you need to step out to experience it,” he says.
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