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“The entire process of filmmaking is an act”

Sandeep Sharad Ravade, art director of Mission Mangal talks to Manisha Karki about designing the sets for the space film, the challenges he faced and the aspects he kept in mind to thwart Google snobs

How did you come onboard Mission Mangal?

Actually, there was a non-smoking camping of sorts for Pad Man so overnight I did a setup for R Balki. The set was very small, like a makeshift hospital, and I got the location at 9 pm and shooting was 7 am the next day. They liked the detailing I did and then I did a couple of ad films for the production house. Then, I got a call for Mission Mangal. 

You have worked on films like Baby, Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran and Thackeray. What was your approach for Mission Mangal

It is entirely different as it should be because it’s not a regular thing that the film deals with. I think it’s the first space film in the Hindi language. It was challenging because it was not a normal set. We were making satellites, rockets and their parts and everything else which was entirely different so it was quite challenging for me and I readily took it up. We studied a lot for the right detailing in order to keep things real. We used material to keep it as close to whatever they use to make satellites and rockets, also research went into what is available in the market.

A film like this involves a lot of logistics. What were the challenges that you faced?

I was not the scientist on sets but I had to create the rocket. (Laughs). I created my team and for two and a half months made all that was required in detail, it was almost like a workshop. What we have shown is the actual size of a satellite because it’s actually not that big, it’s almost like 1.5 metres, like a Nano car or a Wagon R. We created all that by using everything the actual scientists use to make rockets. The only thing is this rocket didn’t take off. (Laughs).

Which was the most difficult aspect of the film for you?

Actually, when I started it looked very difficult for me and my team but when we actually started the work, detailing and sourcing things and the material, it was not that difficult but definitely it was very challenging. That is mainly because now everyone knows everything due to Google and they can see things for themselves so I couldn’t take any liberty or cheat. I had to keep it real. But thankfully, we achieved that. 

A mainstream Hindi film on space is bound to draw comparisons with Hollywood films. Did that intimidate you?

No, because I didn’t refer to any other film to do the production design of Mission Mangal. Every subject and film is different. Here it’s not NASA it’s ISRO so that simplicity of people that simplicity of characters I had to show because they are scientists but they are wearing sarees and they are coming to do their job, they have a private life, their homes. There were eight characters in the film so I had to make sure the difference in their characteristics should be shown on screen. In a way, I am also acting as the entire process of filmmaking is an act. (Laughs). In fact, I never referred anything because I was unable to even visit ISRO but Jagan (Shakti) sir, the director, has visited ISRO because his sister works there so he was able to go and see how things actually are. I had that discussion with him.

How was your experience working with Jagan Shakti?

He is very good and we had a lot of discussions and meetings for the setup with each and every character, the mission control room, etc. You know it was very flexible for me and the best thing for any technician is to get the freedom to work as he wants. He gave us all the freedom and had full faith in each one of us and that I believe will always give good results. The entire team including Ravi Varman, Balki sir, Anil Naidu and everyone else was very co-operative.  

You have also worked on a Chinese film Xun Zang in 2016. What is the difference between working in Bollywood vis-a-vis foreign films?

There they have a lot of time to do pre-production. For Mission Mangal I got two and a half months of preparation time. While doing Xun Zang I prepared for six months. That is the difference they give time and everything is first on paper and everyone should be on the same page- the actual set and what should be the CGI and other aspects. We have been working in this industry and we know things so we have to achieve the best thing in the given time frame. Over here we have to finish very early and move on to the next project. 

What are your upcoming projects?

I am doing a web series for Hotstar directed by Neeraj Pandey. We are shooting here in Mumbai and then in four-five locations like Abu Dhabi, Tehran, Baku and Turkey. So it’s an ambitious web series, even bigger than a movie. (Laughs). Simultaneously, I am doing several ad films.


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