Indian Company wins Oscar 2015 for special effects

Prime Focus, the visual effects company behind Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and this year’s Academy Award winner for Best Visual Effects. The Oscars victory was led by Double Negative, the London-based VFX studio, that merged with a subsidiary of Prime Focus in 2014 and created one of the world’s largest 3D, animation and visual effects outfits. 

To his credit are Hollywood entertainers like Gravity, Avatar, Shrek,Tron: Legacy, among others. Avatar and Gravity are both Academy Award winners for Best Visual Effects in 2010 and 2014.

In 2011, the company collaborated with American film production company, Lucasfilm, for the 3D conversion of Star Wars: Episode I-III. A year later, Prime Focus bagged five Oscar nominations for the studio’s work in Tree of Life, X-Men: First Class, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Hugo.

Namit Malhotra, the founder of the Company in Mumbai started out of his father’s garage in 1995. Over 80% of the merged company is still held by Malhotra’s Prime Focus, which is listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange.

Some of the funds for that merger came through Reliance MediaWorks, the film and entertainment arm of the Reliance group, that infused Rs120 crore ($19.2 million) into Malhotra’s company to buy a 30.2% stake.

For Malhotra, who moved from India’s film capital to Los Angeles five years ago, an inclination for lights, camera, action ran in the family. His grandfather M.N. Malhotra was a cameraman, and he even shot the Indian film industry’s first colour movie Jhansi Ki Rani in 1956. Malhotra’s father Naresh Malhotra has worked as an associate director and producer in Bollywood.

When Malhotra started Prime Focus along with three others two decades ago, his aim was “to find a bridge between Bollywood and technology because our industry did not really use technology as easily as you saw in Hollywood,” as he explained in a 2011 interview.
Of course, Bollywood films till this day are notorious for shoddy homegrown visual effects—and borrowing too much technology and too many techniques from Hollywood for its films. In such a situation, for an Indian company to win an Oscar for VFX is a tad ironic.
Although he has worked on a long list of Indian films, including Go Goa Gone, Agent Vinod and Rockstar, Malhotra’s claim to fame comes mostly from the West.


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