As a child I would re-create dramas and use props made from boards and chappals. After working in Textile design at Erode, I studied Animation Film Designing at Trivandrum. Those days the numbers were extremely limited and I managed to get into the 10 seats that were available. It was while working with Indian Artistes'at Chennai that I got an opportunity to work on Shankar's Anniyan. Working on creating 'hell' in 3D animation for www.anniyan.com, choosing punishments from the ancient Scriptures and designing the website's bull was all a great learning experience for me.
I started working as a free-lancer in London and was there for 4 years. It was at this time I joined Sabu Cyril (National award winning art director) as a visualiser* for Ra. One (starring Shahrukh Khan). Working with Red Chillies (Shahrukh's production house that also did the Visuals for Ra.one) was another experience altogether. I would spend first half of the day on the sets and the second half, I would pick up references and books and start story-boarding**.
* - special position to assist art directors in producing quick and quality artworks for presentation.
** - sketching illustrations in order for pre-visualising a film
It was upon Sabu Cyril's insistence that I returned to Chennai to pick up on work. I started assisting art director Rajeevan and worked with him in a number of ad films. I've done ads like Joy Alukkas, Sun DTH, Lakshmi Vilas, Chennai Silks and more. I also worked with celebrity calendar photographer, G. Venkatraman.
The first film I signed as an
individual art director was Mugathirai starring Rahman bur it was Salim that got released first. Salim was the film that brought my work to everyone's notice in the industry.
Sunny Leone and Veeramadevi
I know working on a Sunny Leone movie is bound to attract all sorts of comments but I have so far not experienced any negative or unsavoury ones. Veeramadevi is a periodic film and the biggest challenge with the work on it has been the material knowledge.Only the other day, we gave Armours made of fiber to actors which they found heavy and difficult to manoeuvre while shooting fight sequences. We then had to come with a practical version of the armour made from plastic and fibre to lighten the weight all while maintaining the allotted cost.
Contemporary Films Vs Periodic Films
I personally find working on periodic films more interesting as they involve a lot of research and creativity. Even for creating a thing as simple as a flag (that indicates representations of sides in a period film), we come up with a design, use a matte effect to it because it cannot look digitally printed and then use it in a film. Real-age films on the other hand have a lot of references and materials intact already. All we have to do is pick up the right prop materials and turn it into a set.
Awards & Recognition
I understand that a technician who works behind the camera is not as well known as an actor who works in front of it. But I would say the South film industry is far better when compared to say a Bollywood. There even the directors except for a select few like Karan Johar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Imtiaz Ali are not recognised by the audience. So technicians like a dop (director of photography) or an editor or an art director getting recognition is a far cry.
Audience down South are taking interest these days to know what went in the making of a film. Thanks to social media, they are aware of more than we could phantom. As for the rest, media highlighting movies like yourself should take an initiation is bringing us to public notice!
My process is pretty simple. I work with the director on his taste colour preference, with the producer on the budget and then with my own team on ideas. One work secret I adhere to is something I learnt from Venkat Raman - If you use beige or military green in the background, any colour you use in the foreground will be highlighted.
I also believe that there is no better inspiration than deadlines. There is nothing more challenging than taking up a task to be done in a limited time and bringing out your creative best in it.
Vinod Raveendran believes that anyone can become an art director provided they have an interest in movies and 3D modelling and possess a decent a colour sense and sketching skill. He hopes that our industry makes more of 3D and animation films as that would take an to an alternate world, which he thinks is the whole point of making a film. MovieCrow wishes the budding art director a future as creative as the one he hopes for the films being made.