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VFX supervisor Arpan Gaglani brings 1950s Bombay back to life in Vikramaditya Motwane’s Amazon series ‘Jubilee’

After its impressive work in the Netflix movie Qala, the VFX and animation studio philmCGI has once again proved its mettle in creating a visual spectacle with Amazon Prime’s latest offering Jubilee by Vikramaditya Motwane.

The period drama series is set in the newly independent India of the 1940s and 1950s and follows the lives of a studio boss, his movie-star wife, a trusted aide, a nautch girl, and a refugee in their pursuit of stardom and riches. The series stars Aparshakti Khurana, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Ram Kapoor, Sidhant Gupta, Aditi Rao Hydari, and others.

Arpan Gaglani

In an exclusive interaction with Animation Xpress, the series’ VFX supervisor and philmCGI MD Arpan Gaglani took us through what went into bringing to life the glorious years of Bombay.

Gaglani revealed that philmCGI got actively involved with the series after its scripting process. After reading the script, he and Motwane brainstormed on one of the major tasks – creating the Mumbai of 1945-50s on a tight budget. Both discussed the cinematography of the show, considering how the camera and VFX departments can work in tandem for the best possible results. 

“Three fictional places in the show – Lucknow Street, Mumbai Street and Royal Talkies – have fully been created using CG,” Gaglani pointed out. The production team built a small set – of about 10 feet – for Royal Talkies. The VFX studio expanded the place further by using the method of set extension. For Jubilee, philmCGI has for the most part used the traditional 3D method of VFX, wherein the assets on the shoot location are extended using visual effects. “Some techniques used for this traditional method were scanning the sets, building chrome wall plates, and shooting HDRI Map and Macbeth chart.”

For car scenes in particular, Gaglani has used virtual production. As the story demands a city of the 1950s, the VFX team had to create the CG roads depicting that era. “A two to four-kilometre road was created using Unreal Engine and the team rendered each and every side of the road – including the front and the sides. This road was then projected on LED screens while shooting a scene,” Gaglani explained. For that scene, they used basic LED screens, and to make the colours look best in the overall output, he called the DI team on the set to do live grading for that sequence.

“Around 200 artists have worked on the VFX-heavy project to deliver about 1200 VFX shots,” Gaglani shared. He considers Jubilee as one of his big projects. “Since everything was pre-planned perfectly, we did not face any major challenges while working on the show,” he revealed.

For a seamless integration of VFX, it’s important to work in tandem with not just the director but also the crew. According to Gaglani, the DOP Pratik Shah was “collaborative throughout the project and knew exactly what the demands were.” Throughout the project, “Vikram (Vikramaditya), Pratik and I were constantly discussing the kind of VFX we want for the project, and were open to hearing out ideas from each other.”

Jubilee is a special project for Gaglani for various reasons. “Jubilee has been one of my best world-building projects. I’m from South Bombay, my schooling was done there and I have lived in that part. This project is different for me as I get to create nostalgia. I just thought nobody could do it better than me because I know those streets. Also, the most interesting thing for me is that through this project, I get to see the behind-the-scenes of Bollywood from that era. This is like an ode to the old Hindi cinema, so I wanted everything to look perfect,” he added.

Gaglani and Motwane share a special bond. Hence, the VFX supervisor is known to deliver visual effects for Motwane’s movies like Lootera, Trapped, Bhavesh Joshi Superhero and AK vs AK. “Our tuning is such that the team knows that whatever suggestions I’m giving will be followed,” he said. “The trust is such that I know what Motwane wants from me. My job is basically to think and work in a direction on how to make the show bigger.” On working with the film director on Jubilee, he further added, “It was the best team to work together with on the project and in a collaborative fashion; that is always the best part about working with Motwane.” 

Currently, Gaglani is working on Zoya Akhtar’s Archies, Netflix series Kaala Paani, Raja Menon’s upcoming project, a South film Inspector Rishi, Vikram Motwane’s next sci-fi project based in futuristic Mumbai, and Atul Sabharwal’s Berlin. On the animation front, he is directing one 13-episode animated series.

Here are few more Before and After shots shared by philmCGI: