Like any other filmmaking department, production design is also a collaborative process that mostly involves the director, writer, and cinematographer. Though it’s an area not often discussed, it’s one of the most fascinating.
The best production designers create work that is inconspicuous and are not always rewarded. Jotish Shankar, who worked on Kumbalangi Nights, is one such. “This is why some of us don’t win any awards. Our work isn’t immediately apparent,” he says.
How many of us know that the police station in Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum was actually a set made to look like a real police station? The four brothers’ half-finished house in Kumbalangi Nights, he tells us, is also a set.
“We built it in Pallithode, after considering several options,” says Jotish on the Kumbalangi set. “We took pictures of the interiors of different houses in the area and recreated some of the details in it. We collected from those houses used items like TV, furniture, bedsheet, towels, mats, mosquito nets, etc. to give everything a lived-in look. We gave the residents fresh replacements for everything we took.”
The residence of Fahadh’s character Shammi, however, is an actual house, adds Jotish. “Apart from the aforementioned items, we purchased every other material from Kumbalangi itself. Some areas required additional lights to be set up. We took pictures of the restaurants in the area, street graffiti, football ads, etc, and recreated them in the place we were shooting. We gave a makeover to a pre-existing dance school by adding details like American and Mexican flags.”
The algae in the surrounding water bodies were actually grown by the crew, a process which took 10-15 days. “Everything we made carries the soul of Kumbalangi. We didn’t create anything that wasn’t in the place,” says Jotish, who worked with cinematographer Shyju Khalid to give some settings a certain colour pattern dominated by blues and greens. “The credit goes to both Madhu C Narayanan (director) and Syam Pushkaran (writer) for giving us the right inputs,” he signs off.