Munjya director Aditya Sarpotdar: 50 per cent budget of the film spent on VFX

British company DNEG, known for Hollywood tentpoles like Dune, Justice League and Aquaman, collaborated with the team to work on the movie produced by Maddock Films.
Aditya Sarpotdar (left) and a poster from Munjya
Aditya Sarpotdar (left) and a poster from Munjya

Filmmaker Aditya Sarpotdar says 50 per cent of the budget of his upcoming horror-comedy Munjya was allotted to the visual effects (VFX).

British company DNEG, known for Hollywood productions like Dune, Justice League and Aquaman, collaborated with the team to work on the film produced by Maddock Films.

The director and his team, along with DNEG, worked almost for a year to create the eerie and mischievous protagonist from scratch using computer-generated imagery (CGI).

"The 50 per cent cost of the film was spent on the VFX. And that's a big number. That's the conviction (of the makers) or the importance of the VFX (in the film)... We created a creature from CGI and VFX space which came from a lot of research and development and back and forth in trying to get it right," Sarpotdar told PTI in an interview.

From script to the film being ready, it was a two-year process, he added.

"The story was written by Yogesh Chandekar and it was with Maddock. Then, I came aboard. In 2022, we had a bit of a story outline and we built our screenplay and dialogues on that. It took us six-seven months to write the film and then we went into production last January. It took us that long to create and develop the creature," said the director, known for Marathi films such as Faster Fene, Mauli and Zombivli.

At a time when the audience is exposed to world-class content, especially in the VFX-heavy space, Sarpotdar said it's the job of a filmmaker to spend enough time to get the effects to a certain standard before they release their films.

Even the Marvel Cinematic Universe, popular for big-budget and CGI heavy superhero films, spends three-four years to get the effects right, he said.

"When the audience says the work on VFX is not up to the mark, that's because it's always like a work in progress, that the project was released even before it was completed. A lot of time it happens due to timeline issues or pressure from the distributors or producers, a lot of market factors that don't sort of necessarily work in the favour of the film's completion. So, these films tend to be released with half-baked effects," he added.

Munjya, which has its roots in the Marathi folklore, follows the story of the eponymous mythical creature from the world of Indian belief and cultural system. It stars Sharvari, Mona Singh, Abhay Verma, and Sathyaraj.

The filmmaker said the term Munjya comes from the Marathi word 'munj', which means thread ceremony performed on the male child in the Maharashtrian Brahmin community when he reaches a certain age.

"This term gives reference to Munjya, the boy who dies an untimely death soon after this ceremony. He is a goblin or a monster who is a kid, around 8-12 years old. He tries to realise his unfinished desires,” he said.

"To stop him from doing so, people even today bury the ashes of the child under a peepal tree and tie the tree with a sacred thread so that he is bound to the tree so that he doesn't escape. This is believed by the people in the community even today,” he added.

When the film's trailer was released, many social media users compared the look of Munjya to popular pop culture characters like Chucky the doll, Gollum from Lord of the Rings films and Groot from MCU's Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

But the creature, which has taken the form of a tree after years of living on one, isn't related to any of these characters, added Sarpotdar.

"He's supposed to be a mischievous monster. He needs to have that look in his eyes. He has to look like a scary creature who also has the innocence of a young boy. That kind of gives you a reference to say a Chucky, Gollum or Groot,” he said.

"As Munjya is a bare bodied, bald Brahmin boy with a 'choti', that kind of has a physical similarity and a certain kind of character trait in reference to how Groot or Gollum were designed. But when you will see the film you will realise there is no reference to the concept that has any kind of correlation to these characters," he added.

The story of Munjya, set in Pune and the Konkan region of Maharashtra, takes place in two timelines.

What is also interesting that the film, reportedly set in the Maddock Films' horror comedy universe, releases months before Stree 2, the sequel to the 2018's superhit Stree.

Asked where Munjya fits in the banner's acclaimed franchise, which also boasts of titles Roohi and Bhediya, the filmmaker said fans will have to watch his film to find out.

"The idea is to first make a good film and then integrate it into the universe. I wouldn't say if there's a post-credit scene or not in this one as Munjya was never made with the intention to make it a part of the horror universe. It was made because the story was great,” the director said.

"Somewhere down the line we are finding our own connections also but I would rather say if you see them in the film, you see it. If you don't see it, maybe it's not there. All franchises work because the films are good. If the film is not good, there's no point in creating a franchise at all," he added.

Sarpotdar is also working on Kakuda, starring Sonakshi Sinha and Riteish Deshmukh.

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