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Art director Sahi Suresh on why putting up a set works better than shooting at locales

Sahi Suresh on the sets of NTR biopic

Sahi Suresh on the sets of NTR biopic  

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Sahi and team have designed sets for the forthcoming Telugu films ‘World Famous Lover’, ‘Bheeshma’ and ‘Miss India’

Art director Sahi Suresh is on a roll. Even as three of his films — World Famous Lover, Bheeshma and Miss India — prepare for release soon, he is already signing fresh projects, including Tuck Jagdeesh. Despite all this, he seems a bit unhappy with what happened in 2019. Suresh and his team had put in great effort to make NTR Kathanayakudu and Mahanayakudu as realistic as possible but the films tanked at the box office. He looks back, “I completed 30 films in seven years but the last year was the most unsatisfying. We had other releases like Raju Gari Gadhi 3, Majili and Arjun Suravaram but I haven’t toiled, mentally and physically for any film as much as I did for the NTR biopic. I got appreciated but that is of no use if the film doesn’t work at the box office.”

A set from Devadasu

A set from Devadasu  

Suresh says that in the past four or five years, the trend of putting up sets has returned, in fact, it has become mandatory. That’s because there are lots of advantages in building sets, to keep lighting and the timing in control of the team. He shares, “If you are shooting in a coffee shop, you can take it on lease for around one or two days but beyond that, it is difficult. If there is more work that requires more days, it’s better to put up your own set. Also, there are technical aspects; when you shoot outside, the light fades and weather can play spoilsport. Earlier we would opt for sets mostly for songs but now even for major scenes, we prefer sets. You don’t find production houses flying a team abroad these days.”

A set for Awe

A set for Awe  

In the past five years, Telugu and Hindi films have regularly featured the backdrop of snow-clad mountains, sun-kissed beaches, narrow staircases or streets of Italy. The audience would easily identify which place a particular song or scene had been picturised. At least three such songs on such locations were a must in some star’s films. That trend has changed with the rise in the number of new directors, giving way to realistic backdrops and montage songs and scenes. Only 30% of a film shoot happen at live locations. Suresh adds, “We recreate foreign locales in Hyderabad. For Keerti Suresh-starrer Miss India, we shot in Spain. Since the story is about how a woman becomes a successful entrepreneur abroad, we shot a lot of exteriors in Spain, the rest of the portion which is indoors has been shot in Ramoji Film City (RFC). So it was with World Famous Lover. There are four stories, one of which happens in Ramagundam. We put up sets of houses in Hyderabad after taking pictures of those in Ramagundam. We shot in Paris too… so creating diverse sets belonging to different social milieu within a stipulated budget is very tough.”

Sahi Suresh

Sahi Suresh  

Clearly, it is important for an art director to share a good rapport with the director and understand the film. Except for Boyapati Sreenu, Suresh had mostly been associated with a new generation of directors. Suresh shares, “Balancing is an art. We have group discussions with the director and we brief him about the requirements. Sometimes we modify original locations and use them too.”

Sahi Suresh has mostly worked with directors who make concept films — like Awe or Majili, Kanche, Premam or the forthcoming Bheeshma.

In Bheeshma, he had worked on creating a look and background that reflect the ideologies of the characters who believe in everything organic. So he used his creativity and kept away from anything artificial and plastic as the plot was about using fertilizers that are not contaminating. “It is a challenge to give something new each time that would spell the director’s requirement and yet not pinch the pocket of the producer,” he concludes.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 5:11:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/sahi-suresh-has-designed-sets-for-the-forthcoming-telugu-films-world-famous-lover-bheeshma-and-miss-india/article30513339.ece

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