Virtual Reality (VR) promises a believable experience, but it won’t replace cinema or theatre. Nevertheless, it will be a significant part of our life, believes filmmaker Gabo Arora, also Creative Director and Senior Advisor at the United Nations.

With the VR gear on, some of the attendees at the ongoing Jio MAMI 18th Mumbai Film Festival with Star were spotted twisting and turning, some even screaming, as they were transported to the world of filmmaker S.S. Rajamouli’s magnum opus “Baahubali”.

There were others who immersed themselves in VR films like “Evolution of Verse”, “Right to Pray” and more.

So, is VR a substitute for traditional films’

“People will accept it alongside cinema, radio, theatre and everything else, but I think it will surprise us on how much people want to experience it. There will be mass adaptation. It will play a central role in our life,” Arora told IANS during a group interview.

In fact, United Nations’ Virtual Reality app, UNVR, has acquired an Indian documentary in VR titled “Cost of Coal”.

“We (UN) have acquired ‘Cost of Coal’ and put it on the UNVR platform. It’s the first Indian film to get that honour,” he shared.

There is another project that focuses on India.

“We have a project that is in post-production. It is about the Ganges, its cleanup efforts in India. We are always looking at India because India has one of the highest smartphone penetrations in the world which means if you have a smartphone you have a VR machine in your hands.”

“You just don’t know it yet. There are incredible stories here (in India) and incredible work can be done so, we are looking to continue to engage with Indian filmmakers and policymakers,” he added.

Any specific genre that’s perfect for a VR film’

“Period films would be amazing. There is also an intimacy with the actors through VR films,” said Arora, who made “My Mother’s Wing”. It gives an unprecedented view of the Gaza Strip. It recounts the first-hand experience of a young mother coping with the loss of two of her children in the bombing of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East school in July 2014.

“It gives a perspective of what Palestinians are going through… It (VR) has the ability to give people the experience, to connect with people they wouldn’t normally and travel to places they wouldn’t go to and try to do something about it,” he added.

Arora observed that people are still learning how to make the most of VR.

“We have platforms, not just at the UN. Indian platforms are also coming up. It is difficult, but we are working with the best people in the industry on how to do it.”

(The writer is in Mumbai at the invitation of Jio MAMI 18th Mumbai Film Festival with Star. Natalia Ningthoujam can be contacted at [email protected])

By Natalia Ningthoujam

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