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Understanding a director’s needs, close interaction with clients, and having a clear vision of what the final result should look like is how Makarand Surte, senior colourist is helping Redchillies.Color stay leagues ahead of competition

By Vinita Bhatia

He is the person who is responsible for creating a workflow early in early project at Redchillies.Color. This kind of planning helps moviemakers view rushes, visual effects, digital intermediates or previews in a format that will give them an idea about what the movie will finally look like. Meet Makarand Surte, senior colourist, Redchillies.Color.
He believes that the only way for a post-production house to stay ahead of the game is by establishing a good rapport with clients and delivering projects on time. From his end, he endeavours to understand the director and DOP’s vision; what they actually want to achieve from the movie, while also aiming to translate the writer’s perspective on the screen.

How do you use your skills to help Redchillies.Color differentiate itself from other production houses in India?

DOP Michal Luka and colourist Makarand Surte ensured that they portrayed the thriller film, Ittefaq, using lots of gray and dark tones.

Redchillies is a household name now, a conversation starter. The minute I say I’m with Redchillies, everyone stops whatever they’re doing and asks me, ‘How is Shah Rukh Khan or SRK. I guess that’s one great way to differentiate ourselves!’
It was in 2016, when Fan the movie was released, when my coworker and friend Ken Metzker and I were approached by Keitan Yadav and Harry Hingorani, CEO and CCO of Redchillies VFX, who suggested the possibility of having a colour grading setup for Redchillies. This was a great collaboration opportunity for our clients and us. That is how it all started for Redchillies.Color. We were able to move with the majority of our team from Reliance MediaWorks so we have been able to fly right out of the gate.
Our involvement with our clients, understanding of the director’s requirements as well as our vision of what the movie should look like is what our colourists are known for. Building a good rapport as well as delivering our projects on time; that’s how we really set ourselves apart.

Can you describe your colour and VFX services?
Redchillies.VFX is embarking on its 13th year; it started the VFX division in 2006 with an eight-member team and has expanded to over 400 employees. It is currently working on 35 movies, including two Hollywood and two Chinese productions. Currently, it offers various services including on-set visual effects, concept art, previs, 3D assets, 3D animation, crowds, creatures, matte painting, CG environment, CG effects, compositing, BG preps, and digital de-aging.
RedChillies.Color moved into its new state-of-the-art facility in May 2017 with an aim to provide a full-fledged post-production service along with VFX. Till date, we have graded over 22 Bollywood movies and regional films. We offer services like digital colour grading features, trailers and TV spots, editorial and conforming, ACES workflow, digital cinema mastering and KDM delivery, digital mastering for 4K UHD and OTT content, on-set services DIT and dailies.

How does your team and that of Redchillies’ VFX team work together often?

Makarand Surte was part of the foundation team of RedChillies.Color at the start of 2017, an initiative of Redchillies.VFX in Mumbai. He has worked on many productions both before and since, including the short film Adnyat, which won the National Film Award for ‘Best Non-Feature Film Cinematography’.

Yes, very much. Once we sign on a script, we discuss the movie theme so I can understand the tones, the background and the storyline, which helps me in the colour grading process. Whilst the project is still being graded, the VFX team and supervisor sit with us in the grading theatre and give their inputs. Here, it’s important to mention that what makes a project successful is teamwork and acknowledgement as well as respecting one another. That is how I have always maintained my work relations with clients as well as team members.

How did you begin your journey in post?
I have an engineering background; after completing my education almost 20 years ago, I joined Crest Communications. While I was an intern, I helped the team there with scanning and assisted colourists in odd jobs. I tried to understand the techniques used, as being a colourist is a complete on-the-job-learning role. I even assisted senior colourist Wayne Tyson at Prasad Lab for a meager salary. That was when my boss told me, “If you can learn it on your own time, you can become a colourist.” That motivated me to learn and my journey into the world of grading began.

Do you use Baselight often?
I use Baselight daily to grade feature films as it makes my life easy. The Hue Angle especially helps in separating skin tones of the actors and also enhancing their face structures. In short, Baselight can be compared to a small tank loaded with weapons, each having their unique qualities. Since Baselight is known for its speed of work and its intuitiveness to colour grading, it helps me work faster to achieve the colour aesthetics that both my clients and I want.

Which are some recent projects that you graded?
A recent one was a suspense thriller called Ittefaq, starring Siddharth Malhotra, Akshay Khanna and Sonakshi Sinha. It’s set against the backdrop of a rainy night in Mumbai across three days and has two consecutive stories. I had to capture this, using lots of gray and dark tones. The DoP, Michal Luka, and I had to ensure we portrayed this thriller with the use of colours and hues. Baselight tools helped in getting the image to the right point, and swiftly.
Another movie I recently enjoyed working on was Fukrey Returns, a sequel to a slapstick comedy shot by DOP Andre Menenzes. This movie was the exact opposite to Ittefaq as this played on a lot of vibrant colours and, of course, the famous Bollywood songs.

What is your biggest challenge as a colourist?
India is a country of colour, festivals, laughter and mirth, all of which is expressed very well with the use of different and vibrant colours. The audiences are used to seeing a lot of colour in movies and as a colourist I need to live up to these expectations, which can be a big challenge sometimes. Actors hail from different regions across India and have varying skin tones, so to balance that becomes quite tricky, as I also need to match it to the script and the story.

Makarand Surte enjoyed working on Fukrey Returns, a sequel to a slapstick comedy shot by DOP Andre Menenzest, which had lots of vibrant colours and Bollywood songs.

Adnyat, the Marathi short film, bagged many accolades including ‘Best Non-Feature Film Cinematography’ at National Film Award. How would you describe your work on this project?
This regional feature film was close to my heart as the subject was very touching. It is a portrayal of an eight-year old boy who is unaware of his own religion, and he sets out on a journey to borrow religious customs and traditions to discover himself. Through this film we presented a silent soulful story, with religious sensitivity as the movie questions the true meaning of religion.
Working on Adnyat was a personally fulfilling and enriching experience. The colours that I worked with have gone on to give the vision of the director and cinematographer life and achieve more depth and meaning in every frame.
In this movie, colours play a very crucial part as the story is narrated with colour, rain and music. Set against the background of the gray monsoon, we can see the use of correct hues, colours, expressions as well as the minute details like the gray clouds, which enhance the movie setting.
Originally, the director and producer of this film had gone to another VFX house to add the clouds. But through my skills and Baselight’s toolset we recovered the original clouds in the shot and made the images more organic.


Who inspires you in your job?
As clichéd as it might sound, I get inspiration from my 13-year old daughter, Vanshika. It’s amazing how the kids of today’s generation think, the ideas and perspectives that they have. It’s mind blowing. She is also creatively inclined, so I enjoy watching her and seeing how she solves problems and comes up with ‘out of the box’ ideas. It inspires me to pull up my socks and be better at my job.

What’s next on your agenda?
This is not my work; it’s my passion! However, I would also like to teach students in the future, as we don’t really have schools or courses for colour grading. Imparting knowledge and helping the grading world – that’s maybe what’s next for me.

Why? Do you think that the role of a colourist has become more formal?
I think the medium has changed. From negative to digital, the role still remains the same. Technology has changed too, so as a colourist I have adapted and am adapting still. I believe learning is a daily process.

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