Design that’s out of this world

Ramakrishna and Monika say it was a challenge to design the space set, satellites and space suits within the specified budget

December 18, 2018 11:43 am | Updated 11:43 am IST - Hyderabad

Set design from ‘Antariskham’

Set design from ‘Antariskham’

Production designers Ramakrishna and Monika are buoyed by the response they received for Rangasthalam and Savyasachi . Their forthcoming space film Antariksham was waiting for their help to take off. Ramakrishna shares how the duo bagged the movie, “We met director Sankalp through a friend and he gave us a brief about his next subject. We showed our miniatures which we had done in the past. As I had worked in Robot earlier, I showed him that stuff which was technical in nature. Sankalp did appear to show interest, I heard meanwhile that the team of Ghazi faced some problems during the making of the film and this time they were a bit apprehensive of selecting a core team. Sankalp had observed our work, and even came to the Rangasthalam set once. By the time he met us, he had wrapped up his research and shared the info with us.”



At first, the producers too were apprehensive about whether a local team could accomplish the task of creating Space, satellites etc in the studios here. Monika thinks the producer had doubts about the quality and execution and if it would be slick enough. “The producer wanted a quality film and thought that was possible only if it is made abroad; so he decided on USA and Bulgaria without more sets and zero gravity. They went there and were given a quotation and a package; people there told them to get partial work done in India and they would handle the rest. The producer had a compact budget and time and was in dire need for the right technicians who understood the subject. It isn’t some mechanical carpentry work that could be hastened up by extra manpower. We told him we’ll do it and also control the budget. We have worked in ₹100-crore films and low budget films and finally in films with no budget at all. We told the Antariksham producer to give us whatever he can afford. It was decided that there was no necessity to go abroad at all and we assured him quality and perhaps more than that.”



Once the designer duo were on board, producer Rajeev Reddy handed over the project to them. The producer would just come at odd hours to oversee their work sometimes and Sankalp would keep them company and even serve them coffee.

Monika says there were last minute additions to their work and she had to multi-task to get them ready on time. “Some costumes didn’t work out and it came back to us and there were only ten days left for the shoot to begin. We designed two satellites — the miniature ones. The three sections in the space ship and accessories. We had to design a satellite, bring it from actual size to set size, the technical size and then move it to the shoot location. They gave us very little time and we couldn’t ask for postponement as the dates of artistes were fixed. If we had to control the budget, we had to stick by the schedule.”

Ramakishna says though there were only handful members for whom the costumes were designed, the actual designing and creating of the space suitwas tough. “The space suit was something which was not in our control and one has to give it a credible, authentic touch to it.

The team created the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) — the backpack that astronauts have to carry in space — which weighs around 10 to 15 kilos. The actors practised for 10 days with dupes with costumes and stunt masters. Each artiste needed three or four extra costumes as a standby in case of damage.

Monika had to get hinges and other nuts, fittings made specifically to lock the arm movement. She adds, “Each actor had a different arm size, their measurements differed and the costume was very thick. I remember working on four different sizes for Varun, Aditi, Satya and Raja on the same night. They had to wear a glass helmet too.” All this while, Monika balanced work with motherhood — she would go home for a few hours everyday to feed her 14-month-old baby and return to the sets. She is all praise for the team; the actors had to wear thickly layered costumes in the summer and hang on a harness for hours together. Astronauts don’t sweat in space, so the make up department had to ensure the actors looked fresh.

The entire shoot took place at Annapurna Studio, they used only one floor for the shoot and put up a shed for working and assemblage. The set work was completed in four months with shooting days amounted to 72.

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