Exclusive: Meet Namit Malhotra, the Indian who won his 7th Oscar for 'Dune'
Namit Malhotra’s company DNEG, which did the VFX for two Oscar-nominated films – Dune and No Time To Die, has won its seventh Academy Awards in the ceremony. In an exclusive conversation with Asianet Newsable, Namit talks about his journey from a garage office in Mumbai to winning seven Oscars for films such as Interstellar and Tenet.
If you have watched Interstellar, you would certainly recall the blackhole scene. In fact, all the scenes of Interstellar were so visually strong that they have left a lasting impact on the viewers, giving them an idea of how the space looks like. It is no surprise that those powerful visuals won an Oscar award. Similarly, Inception’s scenes were equally grippling and are still remembered. But did you know that the man behind those visuals is an Indian?
Not just Interstellar and Inception, in fact, films such as Tenet, First Man and Blade Runner 2049, have visuals that have all been done by an Indian man and his company. And they have successfully been able to pick up six Oscar awards, numerous BAFTA Awards and multiple other awards too.
Meet Namit Malhotra, chairman and CEO of DNEG, the company which has done visuals for numerous top-rated Hollywood films. Recently, Namit Malhotra’s company won a BAFTA Award for the VFX of Dune. And in the Oscars 2022, his company which was in the race with two nominations - for Dune and No Time To Die – has won its seventh Oscar for 'Dune'. In the Indian cinema, the company has contributed to visuals of SS Rajamouli’s RRR and will also be producing visuals for Ayan Mukerji’s Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt starrer Brahmastra.
Ahead of the big night of the 94th Academy Awards that is scheduled to take place on Sunday, Namit Malhotra got in an exclusive conversation with Asianet Newsable. In the interview, Namit tells this reporter about various things including his journey so far, Indian cinema and VFX, and also how he plans on celebrating his seventh Oscar win, which we are sure he will win. Excerpts from the interview:
You come from a Bollywood family where your grandfather MN Malhotra was a cinematographer and your father Naresh Malhotra, a film producer. What made you choose visual arts as your career?
Namit Malhotra: When I was 18 years old, my father asked me what I wanted to become. My answer was quite simple and obvious – a film director. I was massively inspired by Mukul Anand who made Agnipath starring Amitabh Bachchan. When I told my father about this, he sat with me and said that I should use technology as a medium and bring something fresh to the country that doesn’t exist for Indian filmmakers. That is what got me into this.
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE:
How did it feel when you picked your first Oscar?
Namit Malhotra: I was on a flight from Los Angeles to London when Interstellar received the Oscars for VFX. After seeing the presentation of Interstellar at a pre-Oscars event, I was sure that regardless of all the big nominations, Interstellar would win. Everybody else from my team was not sure; they brought my expectations down. But when we won the Oscars, my instinct was proved right.
From your first Oscar to looking at picking up your seventh Oscar, how do you think your journey has been so far?
Namit Malhotra: We have been a bit unconventional all along. We did Interstellar and then we won an Oscar for Ex-Machina, a very small budget film that nobody thought could win an Oscar. The journey has been interesting because some of the work we have done has been unconventional. It always felt like we were the underdogs who somehow were always able to prove ourselves. We ultimately became inherently wedded to the story and the director. We have been seen as a group that stays very core to the director’s vision.
Starting from a garage office in Andheri, Mumbai to becoming the man of Hollywood for VFX, your journey has been inspirational. Tell us about the hurdles you faced to reach this spot.
Namit Malhotra: I have always believed that I am the underdog. The first 50 people I hired in the company, including me, had zero experience in the work that we were doing; it was like a training school. In fact, there was a joke in our industry that if you have no experience, go to Prime Focus; they are the ones who hire people without any experience. For me, hurdles were natural to evolution. Obstacles became opportunities for me. In my 25 years of the graph, there is very little that I haven’t experienced.
Speaking of VFX, how do you think the Indian cinema, including Bollywood, is doing?
Namit Malhotra: We (Indian cinema) have made the kind of movie that need visual effects to a certain point. Some of the prior attempts of big-scale visual effects movies have had mixed responses because the films are not very good. Sometimes visual effects are great, but the films are not very good. However, I feel the use of visual effects is growing exponentially. India is open for big spectacle films to come; our audience is keen to look at that. I see that as a great opportunity for our filmmakers, at the same time, the industry is moving forward at a rapid pace.