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Interview Team : Kaushik L M; Anita; Balasaravanan; Venkat

An art director is a mere dreamer who thinks, explores and innovates ideas. He takes the sole responsibility of putting the right elements together in a frame and narrates a story through visuals. Making a film look beautiful and showcasing the reality is something that Art Director Kiran strives to display in his films. He says “Successful art direction is when the work goes unnoticed”. He has worked for a range of films like Ko, VIP, Irandam Ulagam, Anegan and so on. He opens up to Kaushik about his experiences in working for films and the effort behind visually representing a story.


Tell us your journey into the film industry?

I initially wanted to become a director. I was clueless about whom to approach. Luckily, a teacher from my college (College of arts) said he will get me to work under director Kathir, but when I went to meet him he was unavailable. Coincidently, I had another friend who was working under an Art Director for a film and he asked me to work with him to get in touch with that film’s director. He was working for the film Seeman starring Karthik sir and directed by Raj Kapoor sir. First day of shooting was at Ooty and I was very excited about the huge sets, star cast and everything around. But unfortunately, the shoot was not getting started and one man on the set was shouting at everybody. When I asked my friend about that man, he said that he was the art director of the film Suresh. I was stunned looking at the amount of responsibility an art director holds in a film. My constant thirst to learn more about art direction landed me as an art director today.


From Seeman to Rajiv Menon... How did it happen?

My era was during the 90s. With Suresh I worked in films like Seeman, Chinna Jameen etc. My journey continued with JK where I had a wonderful opportunity to work in the film Kuruthi Punal and got introduced to PC Sreeram. In a lot of ways my conviction towards art direction increased because of PC sir’s unflinching support. Then came the Alaipayuthey experience, where I worked under Raghavan. Nerukku Ner under Vasanth was also a worthwhile outing.
Post working with big names, there was another independent art director named Nagaraj who was also my friend. Here, I could use my creativity and imagination fully and work as a complete art director than being just an assistant. After this experience, I worked for Kandukondein Kandukondein with Nagaraj again. I think my work in this film impressed Latha Menon (wife of Rajiv Menon) and she referred me for Rajiv Menon’s next ad film. Rajiv sir liked my work in that ad film and I continued working under him for 5 years, for more than 100 ad films. From Rajiv to Editor Antony, I was referred to many people around the industry through my work in ad films. And I made 1000 plus commercials and became friends with many cameramen.

“And I made 1000 plus commercials and became friends with many cameramen.”

Working with the big names in the industry…

I got in touch with KV Anand when he took personal interest to scold me. Yes he called me and yelled at me asking me to move out of the ad space and come into films. Very surprisingly, he asked me to act for Chitti Babu’s role (Jagan’s character) in the film, Ayan. But obviously when I heard that Jagan was his next option, I couldn’t agree more that he was the better choice (though later I regretted for not taking up that role). While I got busy with other projects I happened to act in a cameo role in Thiru Thiru Thuru Thuru. After that KV Anand asked me again to act in a small role in Ko. Along with that he asked me to do art direction too for the film. I couldn’t say No. During that film’s climax, cameraman Richard asked me if I could work for Selvaraghavan's film. I was enthralled with such an offer. KV Anand equally supported me with managing shoot schedules and that’s when I landed Mayakkam Enna. During that shoot I got close to actor Dhanush and worked for the film 3 and Irandam Ulagam. Post these films, KV Anand called me again for Anegan. Finally I am here having successfully completed this project.


“I got in touch with KV Anand when he took personal interest to scold me.”

Importance of Art Direction beyond creating flashy sets…

The common perception of people about art direction is closely associated with constructing sets for song sequences. But that’s not just what we do. For instance if a character is going to a Nair Kadai (tea shop), certain things will be there and few elements will not be there. That shop will be created by art directors to attain perfection. Say if you were to show a bachelor’s room, there will be books scattered, clothes hanging all over, an unclean bed and overall a messy room. It is also important to know the character’s likes towards something, say a sport or a musician or an actor. If the character likes cricket it is important to decorate the room with posters or wall hangings of that sport. All this will be the work of an art director. Cinema should be more realistic and that’s what we strive for.
On the other hand, I love colours and I like to design these fancy and vibrant sets once in a while, which is why I sometimes work on flashy and colourful sets for television. I make sure they are vibrant and stand out!

“Cinema should be more realistic and that’s what we strive for.”

Your affiliation towards Ko and KV Anand?

I know him from Ko. It is very difficult to please him and he hardly gets impressed. During the climax of Ko, that entire kidnapping sequence was shot in a set. That house was in Mint Street, Sowcarpet and it was completely revamped. KV Anand wanted me to make the set dirty, yet approachable for camera. It also had to look realistic. There were too many expectations and I had to do it right. So we remodeled the entire house asking the owner’s permission and made it look like what you saw in the film. You would be shocked to see the original picture of the house.


“KV Anand wanted me to make the set dirty, yet approachable for camera. It also had to look realistic. “

The Kolaveri behind making ‘Kolaveri Di’…

Sky was the limit for this song and we almost touched it. The track was welcomed way beyond our imagination and it was an unexpected mega hit. Frankly speaking, we were under a lot of pressure in making this song. Initially Dhanush wanted this song to be shot in a terrace where friends are drinking and sharing their sob stories. Since the expectations grew big, we generated many ideas. It was a public demand that the song had to be shot in a beach. In fact we didn’t approach any of the brands that were endorsed, they came to us voluntarily and we couldn’t say No to such big names. We knew that however we shot this song visually, it can’t level the heights of the song’s pre-release reach. So we decided on the beach sequence and I worked on creating that lively atmosphere in the beach.


“Initially Dhanush wanted this song to be shot in a terrace where friends are drinking and sharing their sob stories.”

The Irandam Ulagam journey

This is one film that is very misconstrued by people. They think there are a lot of sets used in the film. But it is not true. This film was purely worked during the post production and most of it is CG. Sets were constructed only in the song where Arya is drunk. I had to just match the same foreign location in my set. Since there is a lot of confusion, I usually keep posting pictures of my set, so that people know how it is done.


Your experiences in VIP?

Vijay Murugan was the art director for the film and it was yet another good experience. Working with Dhanush and watching his films can never get boring. In the opening sequence of VIP, we had to show a construction site. That was completely created by us. The building and the site were made so realistic that even Dhanush could not believe that it was a set. Realism in films shows the power of Art Direction.


“Realism in films shows the power of Art Direction.”

KV Anand’s artistic indulgence in Anegan

Like I said earlier, KV Anand can’t be satisfied very easily as he looks for perfection in each frame. He questions every colour that is displayed in the frame. He wants a good logic and perfect reasoning behind every property used in a set. Even a street’s wall colour needs a valid explanation in his films. It is a brilliant experience each time I work with him.


As the creator for Anegan’s period sets, your thoughts…

Anegan is a 4 fold story that is unique and different. It is a fast paced film and before you realise, the movie will be over. One portion was shot in Myanmar and the officials were very strict in giving us the permission for shooting. So I had to match many segments of that portion in a constructed set. We did the design so intricately that KV Anand himself was impressed with that work.
We worked for 4 different period setups, keeping love as the central focus. The songs are exemplary in this film as we have a mixed bag of genres like a peppy number, romantic one, poetic song and so on. Designing for each genre of song and blending them into the story to its respective period was a real task. These songs weren’t thrust into the film but the story demanded them. Hence, it has come out well, as expected.
Dhanush is a true performer! He has done detailed work on his character experimenting with different looks. Karthik is still the Mouna Ragam Karthik, who is charming and dashing.  The heroine of the film has also done a brilliant job and not a moment, you would feel she is a debutant. I was astonished just by looking at the monitor. Jagan has as usual given his best and he is suited perfectly well in the film. All the actors have raced against each other to showcase the best of their performance and to give us a complete package!

“Dhanush is a true performer! He has done detailed work on his character experimenting with different looks.”


Tags : Anegan, Kiran


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