Bollywood movies

How to create sets for your favorite Bollywood movies

Narendra Rahurikar is a household name in the Bollywood film industry as he has worked as a production designer on films like Bhuj: The Pride of India, Dilwale, Heropanti, Aiyaary, Chennai Express, Singham Returns and Bol Bachchan, to name a few. A veteran in the field, he fulfilled his dream of working with iconic filmmaker Mani Ratnam and now he has designed his own experiential Bollywood theme park as well for movie fans. In an exclusive interview with Filmfare, the veteran production designer breaks down the process of building a set from scratch and more…

How is building a set from scratch going?

Building a movie set involves creating an exact replica of the imaginary space depicted in the script or that will suit the characters. This requires extensive research into architecture, culture, and other specifications.

Are sustainability and concern for the environment factored into your decor creation process?

Before building the set, durability is definitely considered. We do all the necessary research on weather, soils, materials and timing until the package is required. Most movies require three to six months, but TV shows require two to three years, sometimes even up to five to seven years. As a result, the materials used are modified. For example, when I built the sets for Golmaal on the Goa coastline, I used materials that would withstand salty air, high winds, and rain without harming the environment. When I built the underwater sets for the movie Blue, I made sure that all the materials were eco-friendly and safe for marine life, and would dissolve on their own after a few month.

What was it like working with Mani Ratnam?

It was both exciting and challenging as I was assisting Mr. Samir Chanda at the time and had the opportunity to work with Mani Sir on Iruvar and Dil Se. I was very new then, even to Bollywood, and the industry in the South is very disciplined and hardworking. I had the opportunity to learn a lot. Mani Sir rarely spoke on set, but his eyes and facial expressions told us what was wrong. He’s a director with a vision.

Narendra Rahurikar

What has been your most memorable experience designing a set so far?

My most memorable experience was creating an underwater set for Blue, creating fake sharks, and filming with live sharks. I also liked the Chennai Express sets of two villages that we built on the same land but no one recognized. We built a set for Dilwale on an ice barge in Iceland. Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol must have been floating in the middle of the Icelandic sea with a glacier on this iceberg. It was dangerous and difficult work, and due to environmental concerns I had to use non-hazardous materials that I obtained in London. Each film brings its own set of challenges and entertainment.

Narendra Rahurikar

Which Bollywood movie lately had the perfect environment for you?

My most recent film, Bhuj: The Pride of India, starred Ajay Devgn, Sanjay Dutt, Sonakshi Sinha and Nora Fatehi. We created a MiG-21, an anti-aircraft, an An-12, as well as a large air force station and a historical track in Bhuj for this film. The environment we were given in terms of location and weather was ideal for the execution.

Narendra Rahurikar

You spend months creating a set – how do you handle the inevitable disassembly process?

Such is life. Landing a set is excruciatingly painful for an art director, but it also means that I did my job well and that the public appreciated it.