Hindi movie Jhanak Jhanak Payal Bhaje, released in 1955, had become an instant blockbuster, making it one of the all-time classics of Indian cinema. The iconic film directed by Shantaram was a fabulous visual expression of the Kathak dance form. The beautiful music composed by Vasant Desai and the technicolour were some of the unique features that had played pivotal roles in the grand success of the film. The audience and the critics were mesmerised by the fabulous production quality of the movie. Kanu Desai, who was a disciple of Nanadalal Bose, one of the pioneers of modern Indian art, was the art director of Jhanak Jhanak Payal Bhaje. It was the first time that the audience had noticed the name of the art director.
Meanwhile, Hollywood film Gone With the Wind that hit the screens in 1939 is considered a classic in world cinema. The movie that starred Clarke Gable and Vivien Leigh in the lead roles had boasted of an ensemble cast. Besides art director Lyle Wheeler, William Cameron Mendis too had prepared multiple sketches for the scenes. These colourful sketches had helped the director visualise and execute the scenes, especially the fierce battle scenes, with perfection. The producer David O Selznick had given Mendis a new name too – production designer.
Production design and art direction
This is a field that is often ignored by many. Art direction has been an integral part of Indian cinema since ages. Gradually, it grew into Hollywood-style production designing. A production designer would perceive a movie as a whole. It includes location, surroundings, colour tone, light settings, costumes, makeup and many other factors. The production designer should constantly communicate with the cinematographer and the director. He/she should possess artistic flair and excellent management skills too.
Meanwhile, an art director should make sure that a scene is aesthetically pleasing, by carefully following the design. In smaller movies, a single person would perform both these duties. It is the production designer who should portray the era through the scenes. Those who watched Malayalam movie Aami was mesmerised by the excellent production design that portrayed the streets of Kolkata of the olden times with perfection. Well known production designers like Bancy Chandragupta, Nithish Roy and Sameer Chanda are talented artists and sculptors too.
Institutes and courses
• Film and Television Institute of India, Pune – http://ftii.ac.in
PG Diploma in art direction and production designing. Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts (painting, sculpture, applied art), architecture, interior design or equivalent diploma. There will be a centre in Kerala for the entrance test.
• School of Film Arts, MGM University, Aurangabad, Maharashtra – https://mgmfilmarts.com
BA Honours, 3 year
Diploma, 1 year
Certificate course, 3 months
• School of Filmmaking, Whistling Woods International, Film City Complex, Goregaon East, Mumbai – www.whistlingwoods.net
BSc/BA in Filmmaking (production design specialisation), 3 years
MA in Filmmaking (production design specialisation), 1 year
You could also gain work experience by assisting amazing professionals who are successful in this field. This is an excellent way to explore new opportunities and contacts too.