In late February, when Nicole Kidman-starrer The Golden Compass was awarded an Oscar for best visual effects, there were celebrations in Goregaon in suburban Mumbai. No, they weren’t elated fans of the Hollywood actress rejoicing the moment of glory for the film. Rather, the 150-odd revellers were those who, in their own way, played a role in the winning of this coveted award. They are a part of the Los Angeles-based American animation company Rhythm & Hues (R&H), which was involved in the computer animation and visual effects work as the lead studio in the project (there were apparently eight other international studios involved in the project).
Says Saraswathi Balgam, Director, Rhythm & Hues India: “Bill Westenhofer, Visual Effects Supervisor, R&H, led a crew of 500 in both the US and India over a period of 18 months (starting early 2006) to produce the work featured in the movie.” R&H’s work, she explains, includes the creation of the computer-generated hero daemons, including Dakota Blue Richard’s daemon Pan in all his incarnations; the Golden Monkey (Nicole Kidman’s daemon); Stelmaria (Daniel Craig’s daemon); along with the spyflies and numerous other characters. The 150 employees from R&H India contributed to all stages of the production process and delivered roughly a third of the total work done by R&H. Those in India were mainly out of Mumbai and a few out of Hyderabad, where it has just launched its operations and added 100 people. Points out Balgam: “The company has been present in India since 2001 and has learned a lot from R&H’s US experts; in a sense, R&H has helped transform the raw talent in India to produce the high quality stuff.”
Adds Prashant Buyyala, Managing Director, Rhythm & Hues India: “The availability of talent here helped the company grow faster and, given that it is an industry that has very tight margins, the India presence not only made it global but also gave a greater cost competitiveness at a global level.” The India team, he says, is fully integrated with the team in the US and would naturally be involved in all the major projects that the company lays its hands on. R&H is currently in production on a number of largescale projects for release in 2008 and 2009, including The Incredible Hulk, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Cirque de Freak, They Came From Upstairs, Land of the Lost, The Time Traveler’s Wife and State of Play.
—E. Kumar Sharma