Interviewer : Jyothsna Bhavanishankar & Inian | Camera : Pandiyan & Balaji | Coordination : Venkatesh | Text : Jyothsna Bhavanishankar
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Art director Rajeevan who gave art direction a new dimension with his realistic restaurant in Mounam Pesiyadhe to the wonderful wood house in Kaakha Kaakha or the market set in Madhurae is on a new high. After having been associated with prestigious projects like Paiyaa, Ayan and Aadhavan, Rajeevan is the Art Director for Rajnikanth’s Rana. Visibly excited and happy about his new project, Rajeevan the man of aesthetics, talks to Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar and Inian.

How did you get into art direction?

In college I was involved in doing stages for theatres, painting and sketching. That got me into this. I have also seen a lot of Sabu sir’s and Thotta Tharani’s works which interested me to get into this. After college I worked in a few agencies and also worked for Sabu sir for a while. Later I went on to do some work on animation and graphics. In the beginning of 2001, I got into films.

I don’t like art direction to stick

out in a film

What kind of projects you would like to do?

I like to work in any project that is interesting and which has scope for art direction. I don’t like art direction to stick out in a film. I would like it (art direction) to be subtle and easy to understand. That’s my kind of work.

Who are your favorite contemporaries?

I don’t want to relate to anybody who does not belong here. I like to watch Sabu sir’s work. And also Thotta Tharani and Samir Chanda. From my batch I like Muthuraj, Prabhakar, Kadir and I enjoy Selva’s work from my juniors. I also like Milind and Sameer’s work. Although Rambon and Anand have not come up that well, they are doing extremely good work.

What exactly is the role of an art director in films?

An art director’s job is basically to create an ambience or a scenario for the scene in which elucidation should not be required. A scenario that explains the scene is art direction. Art direction also is about how creative you get and how easy you are able to make people understand with colors and elements around the particular scene or a character. More to it is special effects. And creating a good color to suit the viewer’s eyes is equally important.

A scenario that explains the

scene is art direction

What does one do to become an art director?

One needs to have basic common sense to become an art director. Good aesthetic sense and usage of colors are also vital. It is how you pick up information and now everything is easily available in the net and in the books, in the hoardings etc. It has created a lot of thought into an image and looking at these things you could understand how they have placed what. Moreover a bit of drawing skills will help to explain to your workers what you have in mind either through computer or hand drawn

Are their any technical courses for art direction?

There are courses like arts and crafts, diplomas in interiors and varied things. As such there are no proper courses for art direction in our town. There are many interior designing courses which people opt and basic arts and crafts courses also come to the aid.

What is the role of an art director in a natural setting?

In natural setting, in some places there may not be any flowers or leaves or grass. You might have to shoot in such places. In all such places the scene would be artificially created. For instance, in Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu most of the New York interior portions like the hotel room, police station and the apartment were shot in Chennai and only the exteriors were shot abroad. How seamless you can work this out is what takes you to the next level.

A director is the captain of the


How important is the director in shaping up art direction?

A director is the captain of the ship. Everything goes around his likes and dislikes. But it is up to you to explain to the director what you feel is the best for the scene. If you are able to convince him, it is good. A director also gives you inputs to think about the scene and get your ideas working on it.

Some of the most comfortable directors you have worked with?

I have a good rapport with most of the directors that I have worked with. And they are all very interesting too. Some of them are my close friends. I enjoy working with these people.

Liaisoning with the other teams in a film unit

An art director’s job does not end with creating sets. You contribute a lot by being with the rest of the crew and try to understand their needs. For instance, if a cinematographer needs something, you either understand his needs and give him that or explain to him why it cannot be done. It is a team work. All of us work hand in hand to create a good visual. Everybody’s input is important in a film.

What are the areas of improvement in Tamil industry with regard to art direction?

Sometime back an art director was everything in a film because everything happened inside the studio. There were at least 40-50 studios in Arcot Road in Chennai then. But now we are hardly left with two with three floors. In between, everybody went outdoors and shot in real locations and now they are coming back to studios. However, now, the art direction part of film making has really picked up well. Many films happen inside studios but still as there are not enough spaces, people look out for godowns and big open halls to do sets there. And in a way, it has worked also.

How feasible is it to use eco friendly products in art direction?

Using eco friendly material is possible only to an extent. But we try to limit the use of materials that would affect nature. However things like Plaster of Paris which are not eco-friendly, are essential to do sets. And we are forced to use them. I try to avoid using them to the maximum. For instance when we were doing a set for Ezham Arivu in Coimbatore, there were issues about we doing a set in the lake. Actually we did not do anything in the lake. We created sets only in the periphery. The set that I created in the water, I saw to it that everything was washed, precasted and cleaned before it was put inside the water. But still there were issues. We lost a lot of money in it. We removed it and re-erected it elsewhere.

What are the special preparations for Rana?

We have started Rana and it will be completely shot indoors except for a few portions. Rana is a period film set in the 17th century. A lot of research and sketches have gone into it. Many visual concept artists and 3D module people have helped me in creating the designs and sets for the film. Rana will be a mega affair. Huge sets are to be created for Rana.

Rana will completely be shot


I am happy to do Rana

How is it to be working in a Rajinikanth film?

I am mega thrilled to be working with Rajni sir. He is an icon and it is a pleasure and fun to be working with him. I am happy to do Rana.

You have been a regular in Gautham's movies. Are you doing the Hindi VTV as well?

Except Minnale, I have done all of Gautham’s films and by default I am in his project. And I am working on his Hindi project with Prateik Babbar and Amy Jackson which is yet to be titled. We will be going for the same locations where we shot the Tamil version (VTV) except that we placed the script in Mumbai and Chennai. The house, the roads and everything will be shot in Chennai.

Working with Gautham Menon

It is very easy to work with Gautham Menon. He does not demand. He tells his requirements and stays back. And it is left to you to create what is needed for the film. In that way I have really been lucky to work with Gautham. My ideas could extensively be used in his work and he is happy about them. He is clear on what he wants and rest is left to us to decide, be it cinematography, be it editing, This is his film and this is how it ought to be and whatever better you can put into it, it is left to you. There is much scope for creativity when I work with him. Right from the wood house in Kaakha Kaakha to the recent Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya or the house in Nadunisi Naaygal, everything has been how I wanted it and which he liked. I am really happy working with Gautham.

Gautham Menon does not


Every film is tough and every film

is easy to work with

Your toughest assignment so far..

Every film is tough and every film is easy to work with also. If you look at it as a job, it is another job. It is like going to an office every day. That’s how I see it. I love being an art director and I love to do art direction and I am doing what I love. When you love your work, it is not tough.

Tags : Rajeevan, Rana, Rajni, Gautham Menon
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