Natural Star Nani's 'Shyam Singha Roy' heads to the theatres on December 24. In this interview, sought-after art director Avinash Kolla talks about how difficult it was working on the movie, part of which is set in the West Bengal of the 1970s.
The period portions are set in the 1970s Bengal. I did research into the costumes, the ambience, the architecture of those days. During the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, I was in Kolkata for 3 months to understand the bygone era. The cultural ethos of the Bengal of those days was unique. The influence of the British colonial legacy was still strong back then.
I studied the architecture of the Kali Temples, the Bengali traditions, festivals, etc. I travelled to several villages in Bengal to get a thorough idea of the Bengali temple heritage. The temple architecture in Bengal is different from that down South. Their construction is dominated by mud and clay.
The Marxist influence was strong in the 1970s in Bengal. Our hero (Nani) espouses strong Communist principles in the movie. So, I studied the Communist cultural iconography as well. The press culture, the texture of the newspapers back those days were also studied. The roads have undergone change, but the buildings haven't undergone as much change.
The biggest set is of a temple. Major episodes take place in the backdrop of this temple. I worked on the set for three months with 300 workers/artists. I used clay and also meticulously took care of the design. I didn't replicate the Kolkata Kali Mata Temple as it is. I only tried to imitate the style to an extent.
Kolkata has a rich cultural history. That's why I was excited to do a project like this one. The Devadasi tradition had its specific features. I had to understand them thoroughly.
For some films, the art director doesn't get much recognition. 'Jersey' was shot on sets. But they were so realistic that nobody even recognized them. In films like 'Shyam Singha Roy', the art work gets elevated invariably.
Wallpapers were a predominant part of the interior design in the Bengal of those days. I studied the colour patterns, texture and other aspects to enrich the visuals. The colours are earthy. The flooring follows a geometrical pattern. I did watch a few films of Satyajit Ray. Those were monochrome films, so you can understand only so much from them.
The severe cyclone in Hyderabad washed away a part of the temple set. Budget wise, there was an increase in costs both because of the pandemic and the natural calamity. The producer (debutant Venkat Boyanapalli of Niharika Entertainments) didn't compromise on the budget.
'Srimanthudu' is my first movie as an apprentice. I debuted with 'Krishnagaadi Veera Prema Gadha' as an art director. I have also done Nani garu's 'Jersey'. I am also working on his 'Dasara' next. Nani garu trusts me.