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‘I had no choice but to be accurate in my planning,’ says Latha Tharun Dhaassyam

Latha Tharun Dhaassyam | Photo: By arrangement

Latha Tharun Dhaassyam | Photo: By arrangement  

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The production designer holds forth on the challenges of this subculture within the industry

The Telugu cinema industry is opening up a lot of opportunities to aspiring production designers and women are making best use of them.

Costume and production designer Latha Tharun Dhaassyam is quickly making inroads into the colours and art scene of Telugu cinema. What strikes you about this young craftswoman is her ingenuousness and simplicity, her approach to work is strikingly honest and clear.

The 25-something Latha is not entirely new to films or film-making. She belongs to a family that made 45 films in Kannada. She shares that she’s getting offers to design after her work in Pelli Choopulu.

Latha grew up watching film shooting, make-up artistes, set work and costume designing and was influenced by them. While working for Pelli Choopulu, she realised she really loves the craft.

Shift to costumes

On her foray into mainstream cinema, she says, “I got married to Tharun and moved to Hyderabad five years back. Pelli Choopulu was being made on a shoestring budget and I got into doing costumes. My dad was upset as he didn’t want me to get into the industry because he had seen the ups and downs. I was doing graphic designing then. I wasn’t good with sketches and got rejected by NIFT but my mom’s impeccable taste in colours, décor rubbed off on me. I got compliments in college for my dressing but I didn’t realise I stood out. Doing production and costume design has become a bit hectic after Ee Nagariniki Yemaindi. I am doing only production design for U-Turn.”

Latha admits though that she was lost when she moved to Hyderabad and did not know where to begin from. When she began work on Pelli Choopulu, she did not know production design, so she had to do online research and learnt by reading a lot of books that Tharun gave her.

Latha with Tharun Bhascker Dhaassyam| Photo: By arrangement

Latha with Tharun Bhascker Dhaassyam| Photo: By arrangement  

She adds, “I knew nobody in Hyderabad. I was still new to the city, roads and language here. Thanks to Google maps and WhatsApp, things became easier. The producers gave me a strict budget and art work had to do be done in two lakhs. We hunted for live locations, took a lot of curtains and bedsheets from my house and I even used my room as Vijay Deverkonda’s room. Pelli Choopulu did give me a foundation to work on Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi? By the time I moved to U-Turn, I understood the dynamics of cinematography and knew how much light they use and how much I need to fill up. Pelli Choopulu gave me the liberty to goof up but I had the support of assistant directors.”

Recalling the hard work on location, Latha says, “I would visit the location before with the DoP. I had to be there at 4 am at the location with my team if the shoot was at 6 am and I would set up just that part. I had 45 or 30 minutes to do up the next.

The rapport between me and the cinematographer was very essential. Once we both got along well, the job became easy. If a serious scene is happening, I can’t have the room or costumes very bright, colourful. The audience will be looking at only that and not focus on acting. The whole point is décor and costume has to be subtle and acting has to stand out. The best part is people look at cinema differently these days. Very few use gaudy colours but I notice for break up scenes, bright colours are used when the heroine wakes up from bed with eyeliner and lipstick intact.”

The whole point is décor and costume has to be subtle and acting has to stand out. The best part is people look at cinema differently these days.

Latha points out that the directors might yell at the stylists but the stylists need to have a good rapport with DoP and the director. Most of the stylists give the work to their assistants and they are seldom present on the sets. They are not aware of what’s haapening on the set. This happens when a stylist is doing too many films, she thinks.

She faced other challenges this time. “During the making of Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi?, my sister was getting married and it was chaotic in Bengaluru. I told Tharun I can manage only costumes. Tharun writes the synopsis, and even before that he gives me the idea. I know the script in and out, the character flow. So it becomes easy to do the costumes with his little updates,” says Latha.

She adds, “Because of the budget we don’t buy clothes for all. I used my mother-in-law’s saris too. We were shooting in Goa, where I didn’t know what was available and what’s not. Since renting things would be expensive, I took most of the stuff from here. Also the locations too were expensive in Goa, if I goof up I would lose money on lights, lightmen and that means stay, food, travel everything would extend. I had no choice but to be accurate in my planning.”

The DoP of the film roped in Latha for U-Turn too. The designer says she is happy to be in the transition period in the industry.

‘I had no choice but to be accurate in my planning,’ says Latha Tharun Dhaassyam

Not so easy

Five years ago, it was difficult for female production designers to get into the industry, they were either bullied or looked down upon. Now it is not a big deal. People have accepted women production designers. Latha says there is no gender bias, the technicians and craftsmen do look forward to having women because they have a keen sense of colours and organising things.

She quips, “After a while the team forgets I am a woman. I come and check on everything and they fight with me. I am not spared because I am a woman, but they are also happy to see me on sets. I only wish certain things change here; like releasing money at least two days before the shoot and not just one day ahead. Most of the art department personnel have seen the industry work and are scared they will not get paid. That’s why they insist on advance payment. Even the shops providing material will not give me stuff unless I pay them an advance. I am never satisfied doing things in the last minute, I wish that changes.”

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Printable version | Dec 11, 2019 5:27:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/production-designer-latha-tharun-dhaassyam-had-to-be-accurate-in-my-planning/article24252743.ece

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