National Award-winning art director Anees Nadodi on building a chapel for the Malayalam film ‘Kappela’

National Film Award-winning production designer Anees Nadodi

National Film Award-winning production designer Anees Nadodi | Photo Credit: Mithu Shiva

When the 68th National Film Awards were announced with production designer Anees Nadodi’s name on the list for the best production design for Kappela, he was on an outing with his wife at Marine Drive in Kochi. “When we got the call, we did not even know what award it was. I did not know that the National Awards were to be announced,” he says over the phone from Malappuram, where he is visiting his mother after the announcement. 

“My younger brother called and asked me if there was another production designer with the same name. When I said no, he told me I had won the National Award!” 

Phone calls started pouring in. “Even then it did not register. I checked with friends in the media to confirm the news. It took another 24 hours before it finally sank in.” Almost all films are sent in for consideration for various awards, there was no reason for him to expect an award. 

An interest in drawing and applied arts led the 32-year-old to quit his job as a journalism teacher in Malappuram to pursue a career in art direction. Sudani from Nigeria was his first film as an independent art director; Varathan, Thamasha, Luca, Kanakam Kamini Kalaham and Mahaveeryar are some of his other films. 

Anees’ design sensibility is low-key and restrained, keeping a set real. “Choosing a film like Kappela implies that the jury looks for many aspects and pays attention to the details that go into designing a set,” he says. He explains what went into designing Kappela’s ‘kappela’, an abandoned chapel of Mother Mary, which is a sanctuary of sorts for Anna Ben’s character. It is a set that is close to his heart.

The set for Kappela being built 

The set for Kappela being built  | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Built from scratch on the edge of a cliff at Poovaranthode, a small village nestling among nutmeg plantations in Wayanad, it was constructed with the help of carpenters and welders. The design team built an 18-ft. ramp on which the set was built.

“Musthafa, the director, wanted it to be on that particular cliff because the landscape is stunning. The kappela had to be on the edge like a protrusion onto the landscape. We sourced plants and foliage found on the higher reaches of such hills and ‘planted’ them there for authenticity. Since these would wilt soon, we would get these plants only after everything was ready and the camera set to roll,” Anees reminisces. For the other sets, he sourced items locally from the villagers, for a real feel.

Driven by the belief that everything can be used and reused, his ‘modus operandi’ is to raid local scrap yards to build sets, as “Chances are you will find everything you need for a set there. I depend on scrap yards for my material — an office, home and a police station too can be built out of what a scrap yard yields.” 

Although a supporter of recycling and up-cycling, designing for him is a creative exploration. His current design sensibility crystallised with Luca (2019) in which the eponymous character was a scrap artist based on Anees’ suggestion. That was a film he expected an award for. “However, when I look back on my work, I realise that it was not enough. My work has also refined over the years.” 

For now he is enjoying the moment, albeit with a dash of surprise before he embarks on his next projects.  

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Printable version | Sep 15, 2022 12:46:41 pm |