With our own versions of the Hulk in Athisayan and Tyrannosaurus Rex in Shankar‘s Jeans, films have employed computer generated imagery (CGI) to make reality look more exciting, like in Rajinikanth-starrer Lingaa, to create a fantastical world in Kochadaiiyaan or to even realistically recreate an event like the tsunami in Kamal Haasan‘s Dasavathaaram. But even in films that get it right most of the time, a few scenes and shots unnerve or amuse, instead of seamlessly taking the viewer with the story. Here are a few examples:
The tsunami at the end of Dasavathaaram was supposed to recreate the historic 2004 tsunami that shook Tamil Nadu. In a grand film modeled on Vishnu’s ten avatars, the tsunami was supposed to represent the destruction of the universe. But sadly, the strange blue wall that was the tsunami and the plastic-looking ships only make the image of Fletcher getting pierced by an Indian flag look even more surreal.
Rajinikanth’s Lingaa bikes up a mountain, gets higher than a hot air balloon where the villain has trapped the heroine. And then, he jumps onto the balloon before destroying the villain, all the while looking like a two-dimensional cutout.
Vishal jumps over a Sumo using a driverless vehicle while he’s sitting on it’s bonnet (thereby making Aambala a science fiction film, officially). After that, he shoots at his enemies—not surprising. What’s surprising is that we get to follow the bullet in real-time in all it’s crude MS Paint glory.
We spend the entirety of Kochadaiiyaan in the uncanny valley. Given that this is India’s first motion capture film, you might be more forgiving of the graphics during the scenes, but ‘Medhuvagathaan’ is a romantic song and the lack of sophistication is painfully obvious. The animated versions of Rajinikanth and Deepika Padukone somehow look and move like the real persons, but their eyes clearly reveal that they’re just hollow dolls.
‘Mudhalvane’ from Mudhalvan is creatively designed around three snakes that prevent the hero and heroine from spending time with each other. The three snakes are Raghuvaran, Manivannan, and Vadivelu (some of his hillarious expressions come through the graphics, though). The idea sounds really fun on paper, but to see these beloved actors as snakes is often grotesque, and sometimes even creepy.
Shankar’s Jeans has amazing graphics, especially in ‘Kannodu Kanbadhellam’ but at the film’s end it takes a page (one that’s seriously torn up) out of Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, and brings in a dinosaur that wishes the newlyweds a very happy married life. You should see it to believe it. The Rex even screams a chair into the air.
Shankar does it again in ‘Akkada’ where he breaks dimensions like Dutch artist MC Escher: the hero, heroine, and background dancers are in totally different dimensions that seem to loop into each other. Entertaining for it’s time, now it unfortunately looks a bit like it was made with a trial version of Adobe After Effects.
This isn’t such a howler, but how could the very first shot of a great film like Anbe Sivam be an image of a grainy, photoshopped airplane gliding towards earth over the towers of temples? We get that it probably represents science descending into the domain of gods, but should that science take the form of bad Photoshop?
Works of director Vinayan are going to be frequent in this list but it’s perhaps this hit from 1999 that got the CGI ball rolling for him. In this, human characters have the ability to transform into any animal. This, around two decades before the release of Mohnalal’s Odiyan. Although fascinating then, the morphing visuals of these ‘animorphs’ haven’t quite withstood the test of time.
Even though there’s a buttload of flaws in this film, you really got a sense of what’s coming towards you right from the “hero-introduction” song. Modelled around a modern Srikrishna, the song is about the charming ways of this Casanova. At first, we get a shot of him riding a Harley as a tacky Hollywood-like sign with ‘Cassanova’ on it appears in the background. But even more jarring is a sequence showing this Krishna growing up. As he moves from left to right, we see him growing up from teen years to adulthood. When he hits adulthood, though, the background suddenly transforms into Holland. But why? Maybe that’s where the writers went to write this film?
In this 1996 film directed by KK Haridas there’s a lot of jargon related to things like the computer, the internet and the floppy disk. The cult song ‘Dekho Simple Magic’ is a treasure trove of randomness. In the film, Mammootty’s character develops software for NASA, but he uses it to fight crime. It was super fascinating back when MS Paint was cutting edge. But it’s this visual of Ikka on a virtual jet that has remained fresh. Watch him glide through a mega city, riding the plane like it’s a skateboard. We also see a mini Ikka chilling on a computer’s motherboard in another shot.
This Vinayan film is apparently a B-circuit success story but sitting through it today is next to impossible. Set partly in Romania, the film mixes black magic with Bran Stoker’s classic to give us a heady mix of bad CGI and even worse acting. This collage is taken from a fist fight (I swear) between a bat and a man. And when this bat bites this man, we get a Mallu batman that’s particularly sleazy. The TV serial-like dialogues only makes it worse.
This film is apparently the first superhero movie in Malayalam but this crossbreed of Hulk and Invisible Man is a 16-bit wonderland of shoddy CG work. Again by Vinayan, the director should have known that his ambitious ideas are never going to work within his budget. And its not just about the CG. In a song, we get 100s of packets with goldfish hanging behind the romancing lead couple. The massive CG work includes Athisayan destroying Kochi city, with him kicking a Jeep towards us and throwing a truck at the bad guys. We also see the hero turning orange for most of the film after he drinks the chemical concoction that makes him Hulk.
Padi Padi Leche Manasu
Padi Padi Leche Manasu is a tiring essay on love that keeps reheating the same bowl of food for two and a half hours. The interval scene which involves a natural disaster, i.e. an earthquake, is so poorly done that you’ll stop feeling bad for the two love birds in the movie and start laughing about the quality of the graphics.
Vinaya Vidheya Rama
If you’re alive and well after watching Vinaya Vidheya Rama, you’re a braveheart. Almost every scene in this film is enjoyable because it’s bad. For this piece, however, the one putrid build-up sequence that deserves to be mentioned is the one where the villain (played by Vivek Oberoi) kills a venomous snake by getting bitten by it. Does that even look like a real snake?!!