“My inspirations are drawn from nature and school days”


Sabu Cyril, an eminent film art director, who has designed films like ‘Om Shanti Om’ (2007) and ‘Baahubali’ (2015), will be in charge of the décor of the upcoming International Film Festival of India. In an exclusive interview with NT BUZZ he speaks about his work, films, IFFI and visit to Goa




Q: You have been entrusted with the responsibility of handling the décor for the 46th edition of the International Film Festival of India, to be held in Goa. How do you feel about handling the designing one of the premier film festivals of the world?

I am quite excited and I have taken it as a challenge to do my best within the parameters that are provided to me.

Q: You have created wonders in ‘Baahubali’ while bringing alive the world of fantasy on screen. Will your designs for the International Film Festival of India have any touch of fantasy?

Film art direction is completely different from what I have to do at IFFI. I don’t think the theme of fantasy applies here, but I do have to create an ambience of festivity for the local public and the international audiences, across Goa and at the entrances, before they proceed to the screening halls.


Q: Coming back to ‘Baahubali’, was working on the production design of this film very tiring, as you had to work for a comparatively longer time on it?

Working on a film like ‘Baahubali’ is quite strenuous, but when you enjoy your work you never feel exhausted at all. At the end of the day, it was a great opportunity that was given to me to showcase my talent.


Q: Much is said about the way your team adopted a scientific approach to design weapons for ‘Baahubali’…

We used modern techniques to create weapons. I used 3-D printing to make the head of the 100-feet statue of Rana (Bhallala Deva). When the latest technologies are available to us we might as well use it notwithstanding the genre of the film. I have never shied away from utilising the latest technologies, for example, I used carbon fibres for swords which were as light as plastic and as strong as steel. Armours were made out of flexi foam and we tried out a lot of other imported materials that had to be stretchable and that looked like leather; and when a metallic look was needed we achieved it by painting them.


Q: Tell us something about the second part of ‘Baahubali’ that you are currently working on. Do you plan to surpass your work in the first part?

The second part of ‘Baahubali’ is rather exciting. I think Rajamouli always comes out with great ideas and it is my duty to give form to his visions. I have to try my best to excel myself in the second part.


Q: Do you find the production design of a film challenging, if a film is a period film, like say ‘Kaalapani’ (1996) or ‘Baahubali’?

Every film is challenging in its own way. We all know that if it is a period film we have to re-create everything from scratch, ‘Kaalapani’ was one such film because it was recreating the British era, whereas ‘Baahubali’ has a fictitious kingdom that had to be created on the colossal scale that the director had in mind.

In my opinion it is more challenging to do a futuristic film because we don’t have any references. It is left to our imagination to envision the development and the extent of progress of science and technology at that time in the future and we take the liberty to assume the extent of its progress.

Among the Bollywood films I worked on, ‘Om Shanti Om’ was a grand film, set in the 70’s where I extensively used Art Noveau and the Art Deco style, which was predominantly highlighted. It gave me a sense of satisfaction that the production design complimented the subject of the movie.


Q: Are you impressed with the production design of any Indian film or films of the yesteryears, Hindi films in particular?

My inspirations are drawn from nature and from what I have learnt since my school days. There are a lot of films that have inspired me for minute things that could have even been registered subconsciously. I don’t remember any in particular but I feel that the present day production designers are all very talented and are doing great jobs.


Do you think that production design can make a huge difference to the look of the film, thus improving its chances at the Box Office?


If you ask me about the look of the film definitely yes. Production design is the one craft that can really make a huge difference to a film. To what extent you can elevate the film depends on the ability of the production designer and the given budget. The audience enjoys films of fine aesthetic quality as they have long been exposed to good Hollywood movies, so it is our duty to live up to their expectations. As I see it, the look and high production values of ‘Baahubali’ have contributed majorly to the success of the film by transcending the language barriers and having an impact on all alike.


Finally, are you looking forward to your visit to Goa?


I have always enjoyed my visits to Goa. Having done many films there, I love the ambience, food, culture, people and especially the terrain as it reminds me of my hometown Calicut. I am definitely looking forward to this visit.