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Creator of make-believe world

S. R. ASHOK KUMAR.

Yesteryear art director Baboo shares his experiences.



Art director Baboo.

Visual effects, cinematography, art... viewers today are familiar with these components that add gloss and glitter to a film. Art has always played a vital role in the aesthetic way pictures are presented.

Meet art director Baboo, who has worked with almost all the top film directors such as T. R. Ragunath, Krishnan-Panju, Bhimsingh, Sridhar, P. Madhavan, A. P. Nagarajan, S. P. Muthuraman, Vijayan, Devaraj Mohan, Kittu, V. Alagappan, Raja Sekar, and C.V. Rajendran. An understudy of Ganga, Baboo started on his own after 20 years of apprenticeship. In a span of 40 years, he has worked for 300 films in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi and one English (Italian). A keen follower of Tamil cinema, Baboo is very much in touch with today's trends. Excerpts from a conversation:

How will you define art? Art cannot be generalised. It varies from country to country. For instance, Indian art reflects Oriental thoughts with a predominant religious flavour. Chinese style is highly refined and can be seen in silk, jade, ceramics and ivory statues. Japanese craftsmen give importance to cleanliness and simplicity. They use red, green, blue and gold colour. Ancient Egyptian art is used in homes, on furniture, jewellery, utensils, musical instruments and so on. It is found on tombs and masks. Their pyramids are a great work of art. Greek and Roman art can be seen on statues, paintings and architecture.

How is an art director different from an artist of general nature?



REPLICA: Gujarat Polythana temple at Devanahalle near Bangalore.

An art director helps a filmmaker convey what he wants. Whereas an artist's work can be preserved for posterity, the illusory creations of an art director are not permanent. They live through the films for which they were created.

Which are the films would you single out as memorable?

In Rajnikant's "Kazhugu," I created a sophisticated living room, kitchen, bathroom and a parking place for motorcycle inside a running bus with an automatic system. For a Malayalam film I created the Chottanikara Bagavathi Amman temple in Geethanjali studio at Thiruvananthapuram. The set was kept in the studio for several months for there was a steady stream of visitors. The interior of the church you saw in ``Gnana Oli" was raised on the lines of the Poondi church near Tiruchi. A 60-ft. Jain temple, a replica of Gujarat Polythana temple at Devanahalle near Bangalore on the top of a hill created for a Kannada film was also one of my career highlights.

An unforgettable experience?

Bala Movies's N. Krishnaswamy recommended me for the English (Italian) movie "Triumph of Sandokan" directed by Enzo Castelari. The cast included Clint Eastwood, Kabir Bedi and Mandalatayde. The experience was wonderful. In Hollywood, the most important technician is the art director who is called production designer. He decides locations and meticulously organises everything required for shooting. Every evening the art director is given a white sheet of paper to note down what is needed for the next day and a pink sheet of paper for the day after. The planning that goes into the production of a Hollywood film is simply amazing. The aim is to achieve perfection.

Where does the art director stand today?

In the past, visual effects were done manually. Now animation, graphics, generally technology, does all the magic. But this has not diminished the value of the art director. Tamil films have made tremendous progress on the technology and art fronts but we have a long way to go.

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